Once Cullen wrapped up, the board asked its own questions before opening the floor to members of the public. The concerns of board members and the community appeared closely aligned. The most common issues were student safety, parental inconvenience and the impact eliminating late buses might have on participation in extracurricular activities.
“You’re talking about kids walking home at 5 p.m. in December, when it’s dark,” said resident Charlotte Gabriele. “A lot of things can happen in the dark.”
“The drive from here to the high school is horrendous,” said one mother, Barbara Cullen. “I feel like I’m driving to New Jersey.”
The board’s objective, as Taylor said, was to listen, not to respond, so back-and-forth with residents was limited. Trustee Laura Cullen (nee Williams) pointed out that no one would have proposed these changes were money not so tight. “We would not have come up with this idea if we were not facing this terrific budget gap,” she said. “This is also just one measure that we will have to look at — one possible way of starting to plug that hole.”
The board has not stated that a referendum will be held, but Trustee Mary Jo O’Hagan explained that time is limited. “If there is a referendum, we would need time to include the results in our budget plan,” she said. “This means it would have to be soon. Probably before Christmas.”
The board said it has planned, but not scheduled, a few more public-input sessions to discuss transportation. (Watch the Herald calendar for dates and times.) The district website, www3.baldwinschools.org, also contains meeting minutes from last week’s discussion, along with detailed busing info.