Parents criticize Georgetown-Ridge Farm bus plan
GEORGETOWN — School officials heard Monday from a dozen audience members who are unhappy with elements of the district's new transportation plan.
The Georgetown-Ridge Farm school district still provides traditional bus routes to children in the country, but now requires any students living inside Georgetown or within a mile and a half of the city to travel to a school to catch the bus. Those living on the west side of Illinois 1 now catch the buses at Mary Miller Junior High School, and those living on the east side of Illinois 1 now catch the buses at Pinecrest Elementary School.
Students living in Ridge Farm are used to meeting at Ridge Farm Elementary School if they want to ride a bus to their school, and the buses return them to Ridge Farm Elementary after school.
Decreasing state revenue for transportation is causing the district to streamline its transportation plan, Superintendent Jean Henigman-Neal said. She estimated that the elimination of one route bus from the district's fleet and reduced transportation costs will save the district about $41,600 in this fiscal year, which will balance the amount of transportation revenue the state owes to the district.
"We are not trying to make a hardship for families," Neal said. "These changes are a work in progress."
Jason Lowe, who lives on East 14th Street, said it is unsafe to have children walking to school.
"Whatever money the district is saving is not worth my kids' safety," he said.
Teri Galyen, who also lives on East 14th Street, said she wants the school buildings to open earlier so that parents can drop their children off and have them wait for their buses inside the schools. She said her four children attend three different district schools, and that she has to make multiple trips to drop them off or else they must wait outside until they can get onto their buses.
Tammy Reinbold, who lives in a mobile home park on Mill Road, said she does not have a car and does not want her 10-year-old daughter to walk more than a mile to Pinecrest Elementary School, so she has pulled her daughter out of the district and now home-schools her.
"There is no way to get her safely to and from school," Reinbolt said, adding that the sidewalk does not run all the way from the city to her mobile home.
Georgetown-Ridge Farm school board President Cheryl Kestufskie said other nearby school districts have similar transportation policies. She said the plan has undergone some growing pains, but that people are getting used to the new bus routes and to the new traffic patterns around Pinecrest Elemnetary.
"Student safety is a priority," Kestufskie said.
In other business, the board learned that not enough Pinecrest Elementary students met or exceeded state expectations on standardized reading tests last year, so the school has not met its Adequate Yearly Progress goals for the second year in a row. Principal Kerry Smith said the school's improvement committee would meet and recommend ways to boost those scores.
The district plans to have a hearing on its $10 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 27. The tentative budget includes about $1.1 million in deficit spending. Neal said the state owes the district about $511,000 in general state aid, and about $40,000 in transportation costs.
Neal also said that the water-damaged gymnasium floor at Mary Miller Junior High School has been replaced, is being varnished, and will soon be painted. The gymnasium floor was directly damaged by a March storm.