A special meeting at the Baldwin school district offices on Sept. 27 was well attended in spite of short notice. At issue was a proposal to reduce busing services in Baldwin in order to save money and preserve school programs.
School officials are already projecting a gap of around $7 million when the 2013-14 budget rolls around, and they have said that cuts to busing could represent almost $2 million in savings. (A $4.7 million gap last year led to the closings of two schools and threatened kindergarten services as well as other programs.) With a few minor exceptions, changes to busing must be approved by the public via a referendum. School officials sought residentsâ reaction to this idea last Thursday night.
âWe are not here to vote on anything,â school board President Kim Taylor told approximately 60 parents, grandparents and residents who gathered in the Hastings School gymnasium at 8 p.m. âOur district is being forced to do more with less, and tonight is the beginning of several meetings to collect input. We are here to
The districtâs assistant superintendent for business, Edward Cullen, gave an overview of the current busing program, illustrated several versions of a reduced system (see map, page 3)and discussed the savings each alternate plan could create.
Baldwin currently provides busing services in excess of those mandated by New York state, Cullen pointed out. The new transportation plan would bring busing more in line with state minimums. Under the leanest version of the new plan, students in grades K-8 would not be provided busing if they lived less than two miles from their schools, and those in grades 9-12 would be on their own inside a three-mile perimeter. Cullen said that these reductions could save around $1.1 million.
Another possible alteration is the elimination of late buses, which Cullen said might save $475,000. He pointed out that the board could make the late bus change without public approval. Cullen explained that the proposals would not affect special-needs children, but would impact both public and private school students equally, since school districts provide busing to resident children even if they attend private schools.