SCHOOLS Diocese approves use of St. Joe's in busing plan

The change was initiated to cut costs.
AUSTINTOWN -- The Catholic schools of the Diocese of Youngstown have given the OK to a school district plan to use St. Joseph School as the transition point for private school pupils who ride public school buses.
Last month, the school district announced a plan projected to save more than $260,000 annually by changing the way nonpublic school pupils are transported.
The plan involves busing all nonpublic school pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade together to St. Joseph School where they would be placed on buses going to Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Christine School, Youngstown Christian Academy and other community schools. Those attending St. Joseph would remain there.
But the plan needed approval from the Diocese to use St. Joe's.
Dr. Michael Skube, superintendent of the Catholic schools of the Diocese of Youngstown, said usage of the St. Joe's property meets with the Catholic schools' approval.
"There are some indemnification issues that must be worked out as far as their buses on our property and they're responsible, but they don't really see a problem with that," Dr. Skube said.
Monitors would be on duty in the morning and afternoon to help children with the transition and both pupils and buses would be color-coded.
The new plan
Under the plan, high school students from public and nonpublic schools will ride the bus together in the morning. The nonpublic school students will be bused to Fitch High School in the morning and then to their respective schools. In the afternoon, they will go to either Austintown or Frank Ohl Middle School before being bused home.
The school district initiated the changes to cut costs. It spends $274.44 per public school pupil in transportation costs compared with $862.93 per nonpublic school pupil.
The state subsidy for transportation per pupil is the same whether they attend public or private school.
Parochial and private school pupils come from all over the district while public school pupils attend a particular school depending on where they live resulting in the cost difference.
The change is expected to save more than $260,000 annually, even with the hiring of monitors to assist pupils in moving from one bus to another.
An earlier version of the plan called for elementary nonpublic school pupils riding the bus with high school students who attend public school. That was changed after parents voiced safety concerns about the age differences.
Some parents said last month they still harbor reservations about the length of time children will spend on buses and contingency plans if a bus breaks down.

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