NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Parents and students are bracing for busing changes in the North Ridgeville Schools.
Over the past few school board meetings, the Board of Education has discussed proposed changes that will leave some students who have been riding buses forced to walk or have a parent drive them to school.
Additionally, the lack of sidewalks in parts of the city have added fuel to the debate, as has the coming Center Ridge Road widening, causing some parents to voice concern about the safety of children walking to school.
“There are a lot of issues. One is all the construction going on, in multiple areas, which presents problems for us with transportation,” Superintendent Jim Powell said. “Another issue is the city doesn’t have sidewalks in many locations. We got a Safe Routes to School grant with the city many years ago. We built sidewalks in certain places, but it wasn’t enough money to do that everywhere. There are still places where there are not sidewalks.”
State law mandates that the district has to bus students outside of a two-mile radius from the school, according to Powell. North Ridgeville buses kids outside of a 1.5-mile radius, and buses all kids in pre-K through second grade.
In all, the district provides busing to 3,600 students with its 45-bus fleet. Getting that many kids to and from school, though, has caused issues with students getting on the bus very early and others not getting home until very late.
Previously, the district used a three-route system. Students on the first route were picked up as early as 5:45 a.m. in order to get the students to school by the 7:30 a.m. start time. The second route would get students to school a little more than an hour later, and the third route would get students to school about 9:10 a.m.
The students on that third route wouldn’t get home from school until after 5 p.m., Powell said.
“Our goal was to shorten that time, get kids in at a better time and really enhance the educational environment for our kids,” he said. “Because that’s what it’s all about.”
Now, the schools will be using a two-route system, where students at the North Ridgeville Academic Center will ride the first route and arrive by the school’s 7:30 a.m. start time. The second route will be for pre-K through second grade.
While the new system will make for less time on the bus for students, it means that the district’s buses will be at 97 percent capacity, according to director of operations Matt Yunker. That means the district isn’t able to bus as many students who attend schools outside the district.
Recently, the board of education declared it impractical for the district to bus students to two private schools in Avon, because there aren’t the mandatory 10 students who require busing to and from the school.
Some students who have been offered busing in the past aren’t now. The reason is the opening of the new Ranger Way, a street that gives access to the academic center and high school from Center Ridge Road. Students who lived outside a 1.5-mile radius, due to having to travel to Root Road and then to Bainbridge to get to the school, now have a more direct route. The route makes the distance to the school less than 1.5 miles for some, meaning they aren’t offered busing anymore, according to Powell.
Some parents also have concern about their students having to cross Center Ridge Road during its construction project, which is set to go to bid in November and will not be completed until 2019, according to Mayor David Gillock.
But the district has taken some measures to help with those concerns, school officials said.
“We understand their concerns of students crossing a major corridor, as it relates to the city, and the lack of sidewalks on a construction project,” Yunker said. “We’ve taken some steps to provide options to the families. We’re going to provide a shuttle service from Liberty Elementary to the Academic Center. If families aren’t comfortable with their children walking and crossing Center Ridge, they’ll have the option to get them on a school bus at Liberty.”
The shuttle isn’t necessarily a permanent thing, Powell said.
“That’s just for this year,” he said. “Once the construction on Center Ridge is done, there will be an eight-foot walkway along there, so the students should be able to walk.”
The district also has made adjustments that will allow students who live on Cornell and Olive avenues and Wallace Boulevard to have busing offered as a regular route.