L’Anse solves school busing dilemma

L’ANSE – A solution is in place to L’Anse Area Schools’ busing dilemma, at least temporarily.

The district’s school board had approved eliminating a bus route in both the Covington-Sidnaw and Nisula-Alston areas, which would save the district $68,000. But, several parents were concerned about their children having to walk more than a mile through dangerous rural areas just to get to a centralized bus stop.

Monday, a few of those parents attended the district’s regular school board meeting, in which it was announced a temporary bus driver has stepped forward in each area to pick up children door to door and transport them to a more centralized bus stop. Two buses will remain in the two areas, and the new short routes will require about an hour to an hour and a half in the morning and afternoon.

The district’s transportation savings will drop from $68,000 to $28,000, but the resignations of elementary teacher Kristina Mechlin and part-time English teacher Amanda Rinkinen have helped offset the transportation change.

“Because we are going to end up saving money due to some resignations, we are still able to maintain the budget that we proposed in June if we add a bus to both areas that does not travel back into school but is housed in the areas,” LAS Superintendent Carrie Meyer said in a Wednesday Daily Mining Gazette phone interview. “Jason Ayres (school board president) at the board meeting made it clear to these community members that we are going to do this this year, but to understand that we are not going to be able to continue to provide this service in the future. They can plan on having another change made for next school year.”

Meyer said information will be sent to families much earlier next year so schedules can be ironed out in advance.

This year’s plan still needs to be finalized with Meyer, LAS Maintenance/Transportation Supervisor John Juntunen and the two drivers.

Another change that will help offset the increased transportation expenses is a projected increase in enrollment.

“In the last few years, by the time school starts, the enrollment was lower than what was budgeted for. This is a very nice experience that will really help our deficit budget,” said Meyer, who noted the numbers wouldn’t be finalized until the first few days of the school year. “Right now, it looks like we’re gaining quite a few students and not losing hardly any.”

In other business Monday, the school board:

unanimously approved in separate motions and without any discussion the 2013-14 Student Code of Conduct Handbook for grades 7-12, the conduct handbook for grades K-6, the Athletic and Extracurricular Handbook and a Chromebook Handbook for grades 7-12.

The district will be providing Chromebooks to all students in grades 7-12, but not in the same manner as last year when students in the eighth grade received them during an open house prior to the year.

During the first few weeks of school this year, teacher Jenn Rubin will mentor students on appropriate use of the technology.

“(The students) aren’t even going to have them the first couple weeks. When we feel the students are able to handle the responsibility, they will get them,” Meyer said.

The idea came from the Fon du Lac School District in Wisconsin, which has had student devices for a few years and L’Anse has used as a model school.

Second- and third-grade students in the district will still get ASUS Transformer tablets as part of the district’s original tablet roll-out plan. Chromebooks were chosen for the high school because of the typing and word processing capability.

approved milk (Jilbert’s Dairy), bread (Bimbo Bakeries) and fuel (The Pines Convenience Center and Krist Oil) bids for the 2013-14 school year, and approved an increase in cost to 30 cents on individual milk cartons.

heard from Meyer about some changes happening at Community Schools, which is the alternative school for L’Anse and Baraga districts, with some staff adjustments helping to balance the budget.

heard about a proposal for a new school-affiliated fast-pitch softball team, which will be volunteer-run.

The board did not have to approve it because it would be no cost to the district, but it voiced support for the proposal and a letter is being sent to organizers in support of it. The Purple Hornets will likely start play in the spring.

heard volunteer coaches have been secured for all junior high sports except eighth-grade girls’ basketball. Meyer hopes a volunteer will step forward before the school year.