A discussion about the future of bus transportation in the Tonawanda City School District didn't reach a conclusion Tuesday, but officials heard additional options about the subject during a School Board meeting at the Tonawanda High/Middle School complex.
The board first discussed eliminating bus service to students living within a mile and a half of their school building last month. The move could save the district about $175,000 over two years, but there is concern over asking children to walk farther, especially younger students. Voters would have to approve decreasing the busing radius via a referendum that could go on the May ballot.
"It becomes a safety issue," said district administrator Joseph Giarrizzo. "Parents are very concerned about their students. We have some very busy streets here in Tonawanda. There are other opportunities, and I think we should explore them."
The board heard from representatives of We Care and Rainbow Transportation, who acknowledged regular service problems during the beginning of the school year. Tom Ayers of We Care suggested examining the district's routes next year to see if there can be any consolidation of passengers to help save Tonawanda money.
"Everybody's under immense pressure," Ayers said. "Our objection, as your transportation vendor, is to find more ideas that improve effectiveness without compromising service."
Several audience members spoke out against increasing the walking distance for students in the district.
"I don't know one family that would let their kid walk to school a mile and a half away," said resident Michelle Hall. "I think it's irresponsible. It's a horrible, horrible idea."
"Those are things that we're looking at," said board president Sharon Stuart. "We're doing our due diligence. We want to look at every budget line and be responsible."
After the meeting, Stuart said the board would probably decide on the issue in early April, when it finalizes the entire district budget proposal, as the board and district officials look for ways to close a $2.1 million budget gap next year.
Superintendent Whitney Vantine said no final decisions about bus transportation next year have been finalized.
"We had some suggestions made," he said. "This is a razor's edge conversation. There's nothing that's going to be done in isolation. We're trying to be as transparent as possible."