Graham changing high school busing plans

Graham Local Schools is considering changing their high school busing plans to pick up students from their homes, instead of at community stops.
Graham Local Schools is considering changing their high school busing plans to pick up students from their homes, instead of at community stops.

Graham Local Schools will change their busing plan for high school students after backlash from community members, according to a statement from the district’s superintendent.

“Over the past several months, Board of Education members, Graham Administrators and I have talked to many parents, grandparents and community members regarding this issue. We have heard concerns of student safety and well-being, thoughts on how families are adversely affected, and expressions of difficulties in coordinating pick up, drop off and parent work schedules,” Matt Curtis’s statement said. “All conversations have urged the district to reconsider current high school transportation practices.”

The district announced in late July that busing to the high school would be limited to group stops, as a result of the fourth failure of a 1 percent additional earned income tax levy. The levy would have helped raise $2 million for the district. Voters rejected the levy by 394 votes in early May.

More: Graham Local reverses decision on high school busing

“With the failure of recent new operating levies, the Graham Board of Education cut over $2 million from the budget over the last two years,” the statement said. “This has resulted in 25 fewer staff positions and reduced services for children in an effort to ensure financial stability.”

While Graham’s financial future must still be addressed and community support is required to achieve fiscal stability in the future, the statement said, through, “reprioritized spending, innovative human resource practices and difficult reductions to services,” the district has experienced some savings.

In addition to making changes within the district, the statement said, Gov. Mike DeWine and the State of Ohio plan to make available a new funding opportunity titled Student Wellness and Success Funding.

After passing the budget in July, Ohio invested $675 million into Student Wellness and Success Funding within public schools. Student Wellness and Success Funding, “seeks to ensure each student is challenged, prepared and empowered for his or her future by way of an excellent prekindergarten-grade 12 education,” according to the Ohio Department of Education’s website.

“When released, these dollars will also ease some of the burden on Graham’s operating budget by expanding and supporting existing behavior, social/emotional and health care services such as guidance and nursing,” the statement said.

All of those factors have made it possible for Graham’s board to consider changing the bus services to high school students, the statement said.

“Therefore, on the agenda for the October 9, 2019 Board of Education meeting will be revised transportation plan calling for Graham buses to begin transporting high school students living in rural areas door to door,” the statement said.

Since the implementation of a plan will take time to hire staff and plan routes and schedules, the targeted implementation date for the new busing plan will be Jan. 6, 2020, when the district returns from winter break, the statement said.

More: Graham schools announces budget, staff cuts after levy fails

Heather Toppins’ daughter is one of the students who utilizes Graham’s community bus stops. She said currently her daughter has to walk two miles to get to her designated stop.

“It’s not safe. Kids are going to get hit by a car. It’s dangerous. Whether it’s in town, or in the country, it’s not safe for them to be walking on the side of the road,” Toppins said.

Toppins said it’s, “good thing to hear,” something is going to be done about the district’s high school busing.

“We have been calling and calling. And it’s not just me, several other parents have been upset and felt like no one was listening to them,” Toppins said. “It’s a very good thing to hear that something is finally going to be done about this.”