Residents urge board to reconsider options
By Elise Franco
Public displeasure continued to be voiced Tuesday over the current busing situation for Catholic students living in the township.
A handful of residents, including township Trustee Jim Davis, addressed the Austintown school board during Tuesday’s regular meeting, urging the members to change their minds about cutting busing to Catholic schools outside of the township.
The proposal, announced in May, offers public-transit vouchers to private-school students instead of using district vehicles.
It would affect students at St. Christine, Ursuline and Mollie Kessler schools beginning this fall. Youngstown Christian School went through the same process with Austintown schools last year. School officials and parents there fought the decision and said none of their students uses Western Reserve Transit Authority buses.
Davis asked the board to overturn the superintendent’s decision and reinstate busing to private schools. The board didn’t address his request.
Davis said he attended the meeting as a trustee, on behalf of township residents, as well as a taxpayer, on behalf of his daughter who he intends to eventually send to private school.
“Would you put your 8-year-old on a WRTA bus?” he asked. “I intend to send my daughter to private school. ... I would walk my kid the five miles to school every day before putting them on that bus.”
Last week, Austintown school officials met with officials from the Diocese of Youngstown, Youngstown Christian and WRTA to discuss the busing plan, as well as potential alternative options.
Austintown Superintendent Vincent Colaluca said the group will meet again Thursday behind closed doors to continue the dialogue.
“Now we’re looking at alternative means of transportation and what the cost factors of those are,” he said. Though he wouldn’t identify specific options they’re discussing, Colaluca said he expects progress to be made.
Colaluca said he knows that cutting busing to private schools has affected a great number of people. He said though it was a choice many are unhappy with, it was necessary to continue serving Austintown students at a high academic level.
“We’re sticking to our mission to concentrate on academics in Austintown,” he said.
“We have a $2 million loss in state funding, and we haven’t cut one academic class.”