The Ottumwa Courier

September 27, 2012

Transportation costs eyed at Van Buren

School board also discusses activites on Sundays, Wednesdays

Courier correspondent

KEOSAUQUA — The total operating cost of transporting Van Buren students was nearly $1,300 per pupil, according to figures presented at a recent school board meeting.

The total cost was $673,586, Board Secretary Robyn Nolting reported; of that, salaries and benefits represented $338,749, while fuel was $114,636. Vehicle depreciation was $117,658. The average number of students transported was 527, meaning that Van Buren spent $1,278 per pupil.

Van Buren ranks in the top two districts in the state for transportation costs. The total cost has led Superintendent Lisa Beames to consider the extreme cost for rural districts to be an equity issue. For example, West Burlington has very little in the way of transportation costs because it is a small district in terms of area. Van Buren, on the other hand, has a large area with a river cutting the district in half. The more money spent on transportation means less in the classroom for those districts with high transportation costs.

Activities on a Sunday

The board revisited its policy on school activities on Wednesday nights and Sundays.

The current policy reads:

“Van Buren Schools will not conduct activities of any kind on Sundays prior to 2 p.m. or on Wednesday evenings after 6:15 p.m.

“The practice shall be limited to not longer than two hours on Sunday and shall be limited to the specific varsity program only. Practice is voluntary and shall not be considered mandatory.”

The board is considering whether to change that policy.

The district received 73 responses in a survey on its policy dealing with school activities on Wednesdays and Sundays. Generally, the students, parents and youth leaders wanted to keep the policy the same, and if any changes were made, some wanted to eliminate the Sunday allowance altogether. Some coaches wanted a later time on Wednesday and change of time on Sunday. Others noted that the school board meets Wednesday night.

The Sunday allowance drew most of the board discussion.

In the past, it was much stricter to practice on Sunday, said High School Principal Chuck Banks, and required notification and permission by the principal. It was only allowed to let teams practice for Monday tournament games. At the very least, he would like to see the policy require the notification of the principal.

Board member Sheila Parsons noted that the practice on Sunday was not mandatory.

Board member Jean McIntosh said, “You can say they aren’t mandatory, but the kids feel they are mandatory.”

Board member Kirt Horn agreed. “The kids still feel they need to be there (on Sunday).”

Stan Whitten said he would like to see the Wednesday night policy stay in force. He has heard comments from parents saying it’s the only night to see their kids. Horn said he heard similar comments.

As for the board meeting Wednesday night, McIntosh said, “We’re adults; we choose to be here. Kids don’t have that choice.”

The board took no action on changing the policy.