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School board makes decision on River Road

By Makenna Mays, Staff Writer

A lengthy debate over whether or not to offer bus service on River Road was finally settled at the Monday, August 13 school board meeting.

Two suggestions were offered as potential bus turnaround points one on Oak Tree Road and another on Colleen Ransick's property.

Michael LaRocco, Indiana irector of school transportation, has visited and driven on the roads twice but left the decision to the discretion of the board. Francis Brumback, school board president, said he understood the plight of everyone involved and appreciated their cooperation. However, he also said River Road wouldn't even be on the agenda if LaRocco hadn't said it was a dangerous road.

Brumback said the road was dangerous for a combination of reasons including blind curves, the slide area and a lack of guardrails. Brumback also added the school corporation's buses currently run the road now and would understand if any of the board members voted yes if a turnaround were to be put in place.

“If anything happens on that road, period, whether it's in the slide area, beyond the turn or whatever, the corporation and the county becomes a lightning rod for civil action, and we will not win,” said Brumback.

The slide area is still slipping minimally. However, large concrete blocks could be put in place, and the road could be sloped towards the embankment.

Board member Sharon Wesolowski said she understood the position and did not think anyone would want to put their children in an unsafe position, but they are already running the road. The proposed turnaround would even be safer than the current turnaround location.

Commissioner Tom Linkel was present at the meeting. The county commissioners have been working with the school board to resolve this issue. Brumback asked Linkel if they had the resources to fix the slide completely to which Linkel said there are other locations higher on their agenda that are worse off. Not going past the slide area would require the school to come up with another pickup location.

Linkel said a new turnaround would take about a day to put together with minimal cost to the Highway Department. Linkel added that no matter what decision was made, they would back the school board. Two of the board members visited the Oak Tree and Ransick turnaround and agreed they like the Ransick location more.

Board member Terry Bryant made a motion they use the Ransick property as a turn-around, and board member Rick Gill added that the slide area is secured as well. The motion passed with Brumback and Beth Foster voting against.

Next on the agenda was the transportation report from Director of Transportation Lynn Edwards. Edwards noted there were some challenges on the first day of school including U.S. 52 being shut down for a while, and a wide outage of cell service. Edwards said because of this, parents, students and bus drivers did not get the information they needed in a timely fashion. She added her intentions were much better, but the second day was an on-time day.

Edwards also gave an update on the transportation software. The previous software they were using was outdated, with little to no parent interaction. EZRouting is a new web-based approach with flexible parameters for routing where parents will be able to access information.

Dale Dorsey president of EZRouting, was present at the meeting and said it was a comprehensive system that can allot for multiple schedule changes such as if a student would need to go to a grandparent's house on Wednesday and Thursday. There were some issues on the first day of school with some students not being routed.

However, once a student is routed, they know what bus they need to be on and what kind of schedule changes they may have. Parents can make those changes in a portal system which will happen shortly. Bus passes will still be utilized for daily changes. Once everything is up and running, an email will be sent to the parents saying the portal is ready to go. From there, parents will be able to log in and make sure all of their information is correct. Currently, 95 percent of parents have email, and Edwards said she has helped those who do not have internet enter information over the phone.

Other items on the agenda included:

*Guidance counselor Sara Shaver requested permission to accept a grant from the United Way for $1,500 for the college fair.

*Mark Reese was present to request the board allow his children to be dropped off at his business. Reese has three kids riding two different buses, which requires him to shut down his business so he can pick up his children. He is also requesting some gravel to fill in some holes at the end of the driveway where a bus turns around.

*Two proposals were received for snow plow and ice removal. Whitetail Acres was approved.

*The extracurricular accounts procedures handbook was also approved.

The next board meeting will be Sept. 9 at 7 p.m.