School District 91 board members voted to discontinue winter morning pick-up service for middle school students during their regular board meeting on June 9, after receiving a transportation report from driver Cindy Fischer.

Also decided on was the date for the superintendent/board member retreat and several teacher hires for the district. In addition, the board members and Forest Park Teachers Association approved the contract agreement for next year.

The service, known as “morning cold weather busing,” will be discontinued next year and is unique to Forest Park, providing transport for middle school students between the end of November and the end of March, picking them up every morning at their home schools and dropping them off at the Middle School.

The service is provided only during the winter months and only in the mornings.

According to Fischer, of the 320 students currently enrolled in the Middle School in Forest Park, only 37 students rode the bus to school this past year, with even less taking advantage of the service during late-start days every Thursday.

“By not offering this service, we can save gas, salaries and wear and tear on our buses,” wrote Fischer in her report. “In the interest of saving the district money, it is my suggestion that we do not provide this service for the fall.”

Superintendent Randolph Tinder said he agreed with the cut.

“It is an issue that has been around a long time and Cindy’s point is well made,” he said. “I don’t have a problem if we drop it. It is a drop in the bucket and not a lot of money.”

In addition, Tinder said, the children most likely to be writing on the buses are the older students.

Wear and tear on the buses, such as writing on the seats, were also on the agenda, as Fischer recommended replacing at least one bus next year.

“I recommend replacing bus number two. It has 91,000 miles and is in bad shape, inside and out. Many seats are torn and there is some writing [on the seats],” Fischer said. “It has had a lot of repairs. Next year we might have to replace number 1. It is a 1998, and it will have 90,000 miles; we’ve put a lot of money into that bus, too.”

Bus number two is a 1995 71-passenger GMC BlueBird, purchased in February of ’95. Bus number one is a 1998, 65-passenger GMC BlueBird, purchased in May of 1997.

Tinder told board members that he was looking into purchasing used buses, as a new bus would come at a cost of $60-$65,000, with a one-year wait period. In contrast, a used bus would cost between $40,000 and $50,000 and would be available before the beginning of the next school year.

A speedy replacement is needed because bus number two handles the majority of the field trips.

“We had 123 field trips, not including the sports trips after school,” Fischer told the board. “We need a good-sized bus because at times two to three classes go at the same time.”

The district also employs four contract carriers”Lakeview, All Ways Medical, CATCO and Special Education Systems. In total, the district spent $83,000 on contract transport services last year, Fischer reported.

Of these, Lakeview handles the majority of the contract pick-ups, transporting special education students to Acacia Academy in LaGrange Highlands, Unity School in Cicero and Rush Day School, downtown.

Juvenile accountability

The board also received a report on last year’s Juvenile Accountability Program, a joint venture between the district and the Forest Park Police Department.

During the program, the police department sent additional officers in the area of the middle school and the library after school ended each day with the intent of identifying trouble and holding kids accountable for their behavior by handing out community service assignments. The program was designed to reduce the number of calls involving juveniles at each location, according to the report from the Forest Park Police Department.

The program, Tinder said, seems to be working, as the number of calls dropped from 23 around the middle school in the 2002-2003 school year to 11 last year.

The number of calls at the library remained consistent, with eight calls in 2002-2003 and nine in 2004-2005.

“We are assuming this usage of officers will continue to be funded,” Tinder said.

Retreat date set

At the meeting, board members also decided on June 23 as the date for the superintendent/board member retreat, where attendees will discuss general topics such as a superintendent search for when Tinder retires in 2007.

Two new teachers will also be joining the district, as the board approved the employment of Abigail Rosenberger and Lester Dudlo as special education teachers for Betsy Ross, grade two, and Field-Stevenson, grade five, respectively.

“We are very pleased to have a male special education teacher for fifth grade,” Tinder said.

Finally, it is the end of an era at Betsy Ross, as Anthony Cardamone, Sr. has announced he will be retiring this year on July 29, after countless years as custodian at the school.