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Forums set on shared busing plan

Dist. 54, Morris High consider using Saratoga as their bus provider

An open forum will be held Wednesday for community input on school bus service for next school year at Morris Elementary School District 54, Morris Community High School District 101 and Saratoga School District 60c schools.

District 54 Superintendent Teri Shaw announced two open forums at the District 54 School Board meeting last week. The open forums will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, and Wednesday, Feb. 6, in the high school cafeteria, said Shaw Friday.

With school revenue decreasing extensively in the last couple of years due to the declining housing market and slow economy, schools are suffering.

"The goal now is, how do we keep as many teachers in front of kids as possible?" asked Shaw.

One way is to share bus service costs. Currently all three schools share special education transportation, and the high school and District 54 share regular busing through Illinois Central School Bus.

Saratoga leases its own fleet, and the high school and District 54 could see significant savings by using Saratoga as a provider.

Shaw said, for District 54, there is an estimated $150,000 to $200,000 in possible savings.

"If we can save that much money, maybe we can save a couple of teachers' jobs," she said.

In 2004, when Midwest Generation closed and District 54 lost significant property tax revenue, and then the district's education referendum failed, it had to cut band, choir, and sports programs, as well as cut full-day kindergarten and shorten the school day by a half a hour.

"We're going to try to attempt some different solutions," said Shaw.

The tentative plan is for White Oak Elementary School students to start school about a half hour later than Shabbona Middle School and Morris Community High School. The older kids can be picked up first and then the buses can go back for the younger kids. This could reduce the number of buses used by about half, as well as reduce the labor costs.

None of the school boards have voted on changing their bus service yet. Shaw said the superintendents are developing a transition plan that will be presented to the boards for a vote.

But first they want to talk to the community for input on what the impact will be for students, parents and teachers.

All are welcome to attend the two forum dates to ask questions and discuss concerns.

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