Students board buses at Campbell Middle School
By Jeanne Starmack
For high school students who have to wade to school some winter mornings through snow up to their knees, there’s bad news.
The school district has decided against busing for the high school, citing cost as a major reason.
Ohio allows school districts to forgo busing for high schoolers and even for kindergartners through eighth-graders who live within two miles of their schools. Campbell has not bused high school students since the 1970s.
The board of education talked about the issue last year, however, after a sophomore was abducted and raped on her way to school one October morning.
Concern for students’ safety — plus sympathy for them walking to school in frigid weather — prompted discussions and a study on the logistics and costs of busing them.
Diana Petruska, who went on to be elected to the school board last year, said at an October board meeting that she hoped the board would look into busing. “I know money is tight,” she told the board then. “But I just feel so bad for that girl.”
The school board eventually decided to wait until it learned whether a 12-mill renewal levy passed in May before it made a decision.
The levy did pass. Even so, it was the cost that was a major factor in leading administrators and the board to decide this summer that the plan wasn’t doable, said schools Superintendent Thomas Robey.
“After we reviewed it, we did not feel it was an option we’d pursue at this time,” Robey said this week.
Robey said that he, the high school principal and the transportation director explored what would have to be done and determined the added cost would be $50,000.
Under a cloudless sky in the warm afternoon Tuesday, it didn’t seem as if the walk from school would be so bad for those who weren’t getting into the cars waiting along the sides of Sixth Street in front of the high school.
The walk though, especially in winter, gets hard.
“It is kind of tough in winter,” said a 16-year-old sophomore. “Sometimes the snow comes up to my knees ’cause they would plow into the sidewalks,” he said.
A 16-year-old junior who lives about a mile from the school said he drives there now. But back in ninth and 10th grade, he said, it was hard to find rides.
He said a lot of his friends complain about walking in the cold. “A lot of kids say there’s no point in two-hour delays because it’s still cold and it’s hard to walk in the heavy snow,” he said.
One girl, a 15-year-old sophomore, said she’s aware of last year’s abduction and rape, and it’s on her mind as she walks to school in the mornings.
“I live half an hour away,” she said. “And in the snow, it’s even worse. It takes me a long time, going up hills and stuff.”
Petruska, reached this week, said she still feels strongly that the district should be able to offer the busing.
She said she didn’t realize last year how hard it would be to afford it.
“It’s the costs right now, with funding being cut from schools,” she said. “We’d have to re-route the whole district.”
“It’s not that it’s never going to happen, but not right now,” she added. “We have stimulus money but nothing specifically earmarked for transportation.”
Tony Kelly, school-board president, said the district didn’t have calls from parents last year about the lack of busing.
“Nobody felt they were in any danger,” he said. “So we didn’t want a knee-jerk reaction. We felt our finances would be better spent keeping our ‘excellent’ rating,” he added.
Campbell is not the only school district in the area that doesn’t bus high schoolers. In Struthers, said schools Superintendent Robert Rostan, high schoolers from across the river are the only ones who are bused.
Rostan said kids’ walking in cold weather and heavy snow is a concern.
“I’m not going to lie — that becomes an issue,” he said. But he still believes, he said, that Struthers’ busing policy serves the district well.
Rostan said cities should have clear streets and sidewalks and a good police presence for their school walkers.