Coeur d’Alene school board trustees heard from impassioned parents and grandparents that canceled or modified bus routes are putting children at risk.
The board heard from about six parents Monday evening. Trustees did not take action but superintendent Shon Hocker said, “We know about this transportation thing. I really wish we had a lot of applicants to drive the bus. We really are short on drivers.”
On Wednesday, Jeff Voeller, director of operations, said they are down by eight drivers. “It’s been a problem.”
After the parent feedback, however, the district is going to consider additional modifications and possibly reinstate some of those routes, Voeller said.
Parents said they weren’t told why the decision was made.
Laura Ward, who has two children attending schools, was told that after over 30 years of bus service to the Rockford Bay Area, that would no longer be happening. Now she drives her children to a pickup location in a nearby community.
Ward calculated that the new route is costing her $12,780 in lost wages and an additional $3,600 in fuel. “Not including additional wear and tear on my vehicle or additional maintenance expenses, to send my two children to a public school,” she said.
Ward provided specific details on how it affects her finances.
- She is driving an additional 220 miles a week.
- She’s losing 8.5 hours of work a week.
- She is putting 7,920 miles on her vehicle.
“The district is doing a disservice to the children who live out here and on the property owners who pay taxes for these children to attend this district. And these routes need to be reinstated. I hope this will change because frankly I can’t afford it,” Ward said.
Voeller said route modifications happen every year as student demographics change.
In Mica Flats, the pickup location was changed, frustrating parents who have to drive farther. That decision was based on poor turnaround spots for the buses, he said.
At Rockford Bay, there are fewer students and state law allows districts to create non-transportation zones for scarcity of students. Not discussed Monday night is a monetary reimbursement for eligible families, he added.
Some parents suggested paying drivers more per hour and they also asked the district to personally visit their community to see the problem. Drivers are paid $20.50 an hour and typically work between six to eight hours per day on a split schedule.
“I love my children and I will not let anybody put them in danger,” said Lindsey Mills, who lives in rural Mica Flats and has two children attending schools.
“We’re still paying the same tax. I don’t understand why this was done and it’s hurtful,” she said.
“Not only are you walking my child in the dark in an unlit area, but you also have to consider that I’ve got bears and cougars. I’ve got wild animals that little kids by themselves are susceptible to,” Mills said.
Another patron who spoke to the board, Gregory Mills, is concerned about the safety of his grandchildren, who are walking along a road that logging trucks frequent, there is no lighting, no safe walking zone and the area is known for fog.