Lakota rolls out expanded bus service

The Lakota Local School District brought back busing for 2,400 of its students Monday.

That’s a relief for many parents of students in grades two through six districtwide, including Bridget Rueter of Liberty Twp., whose Trails of Four Bridges community lost busing in early 2011.

When her sons — 10-year-old Will and 7-year-old Carson — started attending Independence Elementary, it “took some management” to organize a car pool that would compensate for the lack of busing, Rueter said.

“I’ve had a couple of different car pools over the years and one year we even used private busing,” she said. “I have a very flexible work schedule … I know for some people it was quite a hardship.”

Rueter said she was excited to having busing reinstated.

“I work downtown when I do work, so it’s a lot less stressful to (not have to) worry about rushing home when I get stuck in traffic,” she said. “In the mornings, I think it will keep us on a better schedule knowing we need to get out there for the bus.”

Lakota saw several challenges when it came to reinstating transportation to students in grades two through six outside a one-mile radius of their school, according to Chris Passarge, Lakota’s chief operating officer.

For starters, the district had to ensure it could hire qualified drivers to provide the service, Passarge said. Secondly, it had to get the buses being added to the system running properly and inspected by the Ohio State Highway Patrol to certify them safe for transport, he said.

“Finally, since we are operating with limited funds and have to develop the exclusion zones that meet the budget, it can be difficult explaining to parents why they aren’t receiving transportation, how the lines have to be drawn somewhere to create the zone,” Passarge said.

Lakota plans “in the near future” to begin a second phase that will add six buses for approximately 10 additional routes and provide transportation for 400 students in grades two through six.

“As soon as we get those drivers hired and the equipment ready, we’ll start adding those routes on, too,” Passarge said.

Safety is the district’s main concern when adding new routes, and the district was methodical in how it hired drivers and got buses ready to perform the service, he said.

“As we did with transportation for early childhood schools this year, if we can find efficiencies in our routing to increase service without additional cost, we will continue to do so,” Passarge said.