Booted off the bus

Parents of special needs students living in Boardman facing transportation cut

Shari Buchmann and her son, Isaiah Behun, 16, stand outside their home in Boardman. Buchmann received a letter from the Boardman school district declaring Isaiah’s transportation to Potential Development, a school for students with autism, as impractical.

BOARDMAN — The Boardman Local School District declared as impractical the busing of 95 students, including multiple special needs students.

The district blamed a shortage of bus drivers. A statewide bus driver shortage has led Boardman to require drivers to drive routes they’re not accustomed to and supervisors and assistants have even gotten behind the wheel when necessary, Superintendent Tim Saxton said.

The board of education on Aug. 16 approved a resolution declaring the transportation to seven community schools outside the district as impractical. According to the Ohio Revised Code, a board must declare the transportation of individual students as impractical rather than entire bus routes.

Shari Buchmann of Boardman said that when she learned about the resolution, she immediately recognized that it was done improperly because individual names at first were not listed. Buchmann, a parent advocate, took to social media to inform the parents of affected students.

Then she received a letter in the mail informing her that the district declared the transportation of her son, Isaiah, impractical — offering her a $500 payment in lieu of transportation.

Isaiah’s school, Potential Development in Youngstown, for children with autism, was not one of the schools initially listed in the resolution.

The schools named are ACLD School and Learning Center (Youngstown), Cardinal Mooney High School, Heartland Christian School (Columbiana), Montessori School of the Mahoning Valley (Youngstown), Summit Academy (Youngstown and

Warren), Ursuline High School and Youngstown Community School.

All seven schools accept either autism scholarships or EdChoice scholarships, both of which give parents in a certain district the opportunity to send their children to community schools outside of the district.

The letter stated that parents can request mediation by rejecting the payment in writing to Boardman’s transportation department. The letter did not give a reason for declaring impracticality, despite the ORC requiring districts to name one of six reasons.

The six reasons are:

• The time and distance required to provide the transportation; the number of pupils to be transported;

• The cost of providing transportation in terms of equipment, maintenance, personnel and administration;

• Whether similar or equivalent service is provided to other pupils eligible for transportation;

• Whether and to what extent the additional service unavoidably disrupts current transportation schedules;

• Whether other reimbursable types of transportation are available.


Saxton said that when parents choose to send their children to another school, the home school absorbs the responsibility of transporting said student.

“When a student leaves the district, their IEP goes with them,” the superintendent said.

Boardman’s transportation policy states that the governing authority of a community school shall provide or arrange for transportation free of charge for any eligible special education student enrolled in the community school for whom the student’s individualized education program specifies transportation.

It also states that the district has the right to deem the transportation of community school students as impractical, he said.

The notice said that the reason for declaring Isaiah’s transportation impractical was due to a shortage of bus drivers, which means they do not have the manpower to accommodate the time and distance required to transport the students as listed in the ORC.

A representative of the Ohio Department of Education Office of Field Services and Pupil Transportation confirmed in an email that the office has been in contact with the district to resolve the transportation issues.

During the Sept. 27 board meeting that was dominated by the debate of a mask requirement, the board approved another resolution that reportedly named all 95 students. Saxton said the initial resolution was done improperly but has been resolved.

During the same board meeting, the district accepted money from the Fair School Funding Plan totaling $616,050. In the board’s financial report, it states that the funding includes foundation revenue for students who attended nonpublic, charter schools and open enrollment. While the funding can be used toward the transportation of said students, the district still does not have drivers to transport them.

Saxton said that the district deems the transportation of some students impractical every year. He said the district looks at multiple factors to determine which students cannot be transported. With this year’s bus driver shortage, he said it made the process even more difficult.


Isaiah has autism and has an individualized education plan that requires prior written notice when changes are made, including when changes are made to his transportation.

Buchmann did not receive prior written notice until she emailed the district asking for an explanation and explaining that Isaiah has an IEP. The only response she said she received was a prior written notice statement dated Sept. 10, eight days after the initial letter was sent to her.

Buchmann reached out to local representatives such as John Hagan, the District 8 state school board representative, and David Bowlin, the director of field services and pupil transportation for the Ohio Department of Education. According to an email exchange between Bowlin and Buchmann, the district approved the resolution improperly.

She also reached out to state Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, and state Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield. She also filed a formal complaint listing the violations to the state.

Holly Folkwein of Boardman also sends her son to Potential Development. Folkwein is a single mother and her son, 14-year-old Chase, is autistic and nonverbal. Folkwein received the same letter as Buchmann and requested mediation before the Sept. 24 deadline.

She said she still has not heard back from the district.

Buchmann believes the delay comes from the initial improper resolution. According to her email exchange with Bowlin, specific names are needed in order for mediation to happen.

Chase has been attending Potential Development since preschool and has received transportation through the Boardman district for the last four years. Folkwein said she worries about the future of Chase’s education because she cannot afford to get him to school.

“We shouldn’t have to choose between working and getting our children an education,” Folkwein said.

She said she’s had to use private transportation services to get her son to his appointments twice a week, and each ride is $15. She can’t leave work to take him to school, so she would rely on private transport services 10 times a week, which she estimates to be $150 a week.

“The $500 they’re offering is a joke,” Folkwein said.

Chase and Isaiah are still receiving transportation, but the threat of it being taken away unsettles their mothers. Both students will receive transportation until mediation is complete. Buchmann has not yet requested mediation.


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