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Regina busing still up in air

BY HOLLY HINES | DECEMBER 04, 2009 7:30 AM

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North Liberty resident Sharon Romans might have to pull her kids out of private schooling next year if the Iowa City School District cuts its busing service for students at the Regina Catholic Education Center next year.

She and her husband both work full-time, which could make it impossible to transport their elementary-age children to and from school, she said.

“A lot of parents will be in the same boat as we are,” Romans said, and the potential change is concerning the Regina community.

Iowa City School Board members agreed, but did not vote, to stop K-12 busing for Regina students in the 2010-11 school year — which would save the district roughly $260,000 — last spring, but recently, they decided to reconsider the decision.

Though the School District plans to reimburse parents for transportation costs if the change takes effect, Regina Center President Carol Trueg said the estimated $190 each semester could be insufficient for some parents.

According to Iowa law, school districts must provide transportation or reimbursement for private schools in the area. The local School District has provided busing for Regina for several decades.

Trueg said if the district provides reimbursement rather than busing, it will meet the minimum requirement. But the community would be “in an uproar” if the district met only the minimum requirement for other programs, she said.

District administrators and Regina officials are discussing possible compromises to help save the district money while also meeting the community’s transportation needs.

Superintendent Lane Plugge said officials are considering combining Regina and district students on the same buses in an effort to use transportation more efficiently.

Regina parent Jodi Keating said parents have a lot of ideas for some possible solutions. Some parents have suggested that Regina officials could provide transportation for students living far from the school, while the district would continue to bus those close by.

“It’s frustrating for [parents] because we haven’t gotten a chance to say or do much,” Keating said.

However, Plugge said, it would be difficult to save that amount of money with a different cut, and district officials need to make an effort to reduce spending.

Of the 360 school districts in Iowa, only 92 provided busing for private schools last semester; 128 chose to reimburse parents, Plugge said.

Anthony Ross, the principal of the catholic school St. Joseph’s in Marion, said he hasn’t heard of any plans to cut that school’s busing service, which is provided by the Marion Independent School District.

He said officials may need to discuss busing to help solve budget issues. But he would be concerned if the Marion district decided to stop busing private-school students.

“That’s a pretty big deal, getting your kids to school in the morning,” he said.


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