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Ridership up on early activities buses

The new system of reserving bus transportation for early school activities has cut the miles in half but has nearly tripled the passenger list, the Niagara Wheatfield School Board learned Wednesday.

Transportation director Terry Eisenman said the new requirement of having parents send in signed request forms, which was implemented this month to eliminate wasted bus runs, has cut the number of bus routes from 11 to six or seven as expected.

However, the system has resulted in up to three times the number of students the early runs carried last year. Buses carried 15-20 students last year but now haul 50-60 per day, he said.

Some School Board members remarked that increased gasoline costs may have influenced parents to use the buses. Eisenman, who has been reporting on the situation at the last three board meetings, said that maybe it was the publicity that created the increase.

"We're going half the miles but taking twice the kids," he said.

The new system was put in place to save an estimated $15,000 a year in fuel and staffing costs. Up until last year, the buses made regular runs to take high school and middle school children to early activities on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Because some of the runs carried very few students, it was decided to set up routes based on the reservations.

"The down side is we're here until 5 [p.m.] doing schedules," he said. "Sometimes we have to create six to seven new routes a night."

Although he said he does not want to go back to the old system yet, he would continue to monitor the process.

The board also reviewed its policy of dropping students from sports if they fail two subjects.

District Athletic Director Mark DiFilippo said state regulations require students to take four subjects and physical education to participate in school sports programs. Niagara Wheatfield requires students to be dropped from the sports programs if they fail two subjects.

He said if students have failed two subjects in the spring and do not make them up in summer school, they cannot participate in the fall program.

In the fall, if students are failing at the five-week marking period, they have two weeks to raise their grades or drop all sports, he said.

DiFilippo said the "big idea is the incentive" for academic programs, not to punish students. He noted that the policy helps students to graduate. He estimated that 98 percent of them are not going into professional sports.

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