FAIRMOUNT — Transportation, specifically the amount of time students spend on the school bus, is the most pressing issue for residents of Summitville and Fairmount as Madison-Grant United School Corp. officials consider an elementary school realignment.
“Transportation is the biggest key, and it’s the biggest key for me,” board member Bruce Stanley told a group of about 20 Summitville residents Wednesday. “I’m hoping that they show me different.”
His remarks were made in a breakout session that was part of a special meeting of the Madison-Grant board of trustees that attracted about 70 people from the two communities. The breakout sessions were intended to allow residents to have more personal conversations with their board representatives, district officials said.
In January, Superintendent Dr. Scott Deetz proposed a realignment of Summitville and Park elementary schools. The proposal would place students in grades kindergarten through two at Summitville Elementary and students in grades 2 through six at Park Elementary.
Realigning the schools would allow all students in a particular grade level to be in one building where teachers could collaborate more effectively, and all sections of any given grade level would be more consistent in size, he said.
District officials reviewed several different transportation plans, Deetz said.
“They feel they really are able to handle and do this plan adequately,” he said of district transportation staff.
Deetz admitted the bus ride for some students already is long and likely could continue to be so.
“I will be up front with you. Our friends who live in the rural areas of the outer regions of the school corporation do have a lengthy bus ride,” he said.
District officials did look at the average maximum length of a daily bus ride in surrounding districts, which invariably was an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and 20 minutes, Deetz said. The longest bus ride under the proposed plan would remain at about an hour and 20 minutes, he added.
Other concerns parents had include the amount of travel that parents who potentially could have students at all three buildings would have, that some younger children may arrive home before a high school student who would be expected to supervise them and that students still have homework to do after a long bus ride. One parent also expressed concern about an increased possibility of the spread of illness from building to building.
Summitville resident Sarah Hull, parent to fourth- and fifth-graders and one who will enter kindergarten next year, was concerned about the distance traveled by some of the youngest students.
“Who wants their kid to be 26 minutes away?’ she asked.
Hull also was concerned about mixing children of different abilities.
“Do we really think putting them together will fix it , or are we…