By Christine Keeling
Some Canfield students may have a long walk.
To save money, the Canfield Local School District eliminated busing for high-school students and implemented cluster bus stops for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The changes will save the district almost $200,000, but have some children walking up to a half-mile to catch the bus.
“I don’t expect door-to-door service; just come down my street,” said Denise Joseph, a Canfield parent.
Her fifth- and eighth-graders will walk to state Route 46 to catch the bus, because it no longer will travel down Deer Spring Run in the morning and afternoon. Her kindergartner will be picked up at the house on the way to school but will get dropped off on state Route 46 in the afternoon.
“I’m just upset about the state route,” said Joseph. [My daughter is] “5 years old, and she’s going to walk [past] 15 houses to get home.”
Deer Spring Run doesn’t have sidewalks, and because of a grade in the road, the new bus stop is not visible from their home.
Joseph said she wonders what will happen when it storms or the street is covered in ice but plans to count on extended family to make sure someone is there to help her daughter home.
State law does not require school districts to transport high-school students or students living less than two miles away from the school. It also says school districts may assign students to a bus stop one-half mile from their home.
The Canfield Board of Education voted to offer all kindergarten through eighth-grade students busing, but adopted the cluster-style stops.
“We strived to keep stops three-eighths of a mile or less [from the student’s home],” said Dan Richards, Canfield schools director of transportation. “But we are not guaranteeing that.”
He said two stops might be a half-mile away.
“We always picked everyone up at their house or the next driveway,” said Richards. “We said if the levy didn’t pass, we’d go to a half-mile.”
Voters rejected a 6.8-mill operating levy in May.
With the half-mile plan, the district is saving $93,600.
Susan Landers said she can’t see her children’s bus stop because it is up Mallard Crossing, around the corner and halfway up Preserve Boulevard. She said she believes the pick-up point is where at least 30 elementary students who live in The Preserve neighborhood will gather.
“There’s a safety issue when you have so many kids in one place,” she said. “Just out of safety, I have to walk with them.”
Richards said he’s concerned that parents taking their cars to the bus stops might be an issue. He suggested parents carpool and students get to their stops ahead of time.
“This is all new for us,” said Richards. “We’re all going to learn together.”
Roughly 250 high-school students are affected by the board’s decision to halt busing for grades nine through 12, said Richards.
The decision saves the school $83,000.
A deeper cut in the budget was gained when the district implemented pay-to-participate.
Canfield Middle School students who want to participate in clubs will pay $25 per club activity and high-school students’ fees are $50 per activity. Student athletes are being charged $100 per sport at the middle school and $200 per sport at the high school.
The money received from the fees goes into the general fund. Club fees help cover salaries for teachers taking part in the activity and sports fees cover coaching salaries, officials, field upkeep and transportation for sporting events.
By enacting pay-to- participate in sports and clubs, the district saves $221,600.
“It only helps offset, not pay for everything,” said Pattie Kessner, district treasurer.
Greg Cooper, the athletic director for the high school, said it was too early to know the effect of pay-to-participate.
Last year, 322 students played in fall sports in the high school, 193 in winter and 161 in spring.
“Maybe it’s down a little,” said Cooper, of this year’s fall sport participants.
He said students who play in more than one sport may look more closely to see if they will play in their second favorite sport.
“I think we will notice numbers go down in cross country and track,” Cooper said.
He said booster groups may be able to offer scholarships to athletes who can’t afford the fee.
Although the district’s board approved placing a levy on November’s ballot there is no guarantee that the pay-to-participate policy will change, Cooper said. Voters will decide in November whether to pass a 4.9-mill operating levy, which will generate $2,751,914 a year.