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12/09/08 07:13 AM


Panel advises modifications in bus policies

By Kevin Purdy

Bus schedules should be synchronized between Grand Island’s middle and high schools, and arbitrary restrictions on bus stops and walking distances removed.

Those are the recommendations of a roughly 30-member planning and transportation committee to the Grand Island Board of Education, which received the panel’s final report at a meeting Monday.

The committee’s findings will be on the board’s agendas for upcoming meetings, Superintendent Robert W. Christmann said. But acting on them may have to wait for at least two or three years, as the district awaits the state’s budget and considers a delayed capital project.

Over five months of meetings, teachers, administrators, board members and community volunteers looked at busing schedules, school operation times and other issues related to students’ arriving and leaving school.

Along with opening and dismissing the middle and high schools together, the committee recommended busing all students, including those now walking, and eliminating restrictions on how many students can gather at a bus stop and how far a student should walk when dropped off.

Digital cameras also should be installed in every bus, the panel said, and the schedule of late bus runs should be examined for potential cost savings.

Some of the committee’s recommendations were considered for a capital project originally planned to go up for public vote in February, along with a centralized busing garage near Sidway Elementary School. That project, however, was postponed in October by the board, as economic conditions veered into uncertainty and state aid levels remained a question mark for upcoming school years.

The board now hopes to approve a final project plan in the spring or summer and offer a referendum next fall.

In other business, the board tabled discussion of a potential sale of nine acres of the Eco Island Nature Center on Staley Road to biotechnology firm Invitrogen. Neighbors had spoken out at a previous meeting against the potential sale for bringing industry too close to residential areas, but board members said the sale was necessary to continue funding for operations of the nature preserve.