Many not happy about proposed bus cuts|Margaretta parents, bus drivers express displeasure with single bus line idea

MARGARETTA Margaretta parents and bus drivers aren't happy about the district proposal to cut one of
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Margaretta parents and bus drivers aren't happy about the district proposal to cut one of two bus lines.

Bus drivers worry about losing hours and being laid off.

Some parents are afraid of kindergartners riding with high school seniors.

"I don't think it's a good idea," said Castalia's Mandy Thompson.

Her four children, Trey, 10, Tanner, 9, Trinity, 7, and Taylor, 5, will attend Margaretta this fall.

"I think you're asking for trouble if you're going to put a kindergartner with high school kids. Kids get picked on enough at their own age," she said.

Robert Hamilton, union president of Margaretta's Ohio Public School Employees 379, thinks one bus line is bad for students, as well as bus drivers.

School administrators have "talked to other districts and they think it's going to work like a charm, but a little kid gets harmed by a teenager and you're going to have some folks suing people," Hamilton said.

Margaretta employs 18 part-time bus drivers who earn $16.39-$18.86 per hour. Most work at least five hours a day for 15-25 hours per week nine months a year.

If school administrators cut back on their hours, Hamilton fears many drivers will leave the district.

"If you can go drive for Sandusky or Clyde and get your two hours in the morning and two and half in the afternoon, you're not going to stay for three to three and half hours a day," he said.

Hamilton thinks the district should pick up students in two separate groups, kindergarten to sixth-graders, and seventh to 12-graders.

He says it would still save money on busing because of the shuttles.

Under the district's proposed plan, buses would pick up students of all ages and take them to a bus garage where shuttle buses will take them to their schools.

The costs of maintaining and fueling shuttles is cheaper.

"I can negotiate with them (administrators) and give them ideas as long as they're open for some input," Hamilton said.

But former Parent Teacher Organization President Audra Rooker said putting all children on the same bus line is better than losing teachers or educational programs.

"If we want to save our teachers and the classroom size that we have, we have to go another direction and take the good with the bad," she said.

The school board will vote to approve or reject the one-bus line plan at its 7 p.m. meeting June 20. The meeting is open to the public.