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Published: Wednesday, 5/9/2012

District pulls private-school busing

Catholic schools could use shuttle instead

BY GABRIELLE RUSSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Rachael Hojnacki, 13, a seventh grader at Kateri Catholic Academy, gets off a Lake Local Schools bus at her home on Bradner Road in Lake Township. Lake's bus service for private school students will come to a halt in August. Rachael Hojnacki, 13, a seventh grader at Kateri Catholic Academy, gets off a Lake Local Schools bus at her home on Bradner Road in Lake Township. Lake's bus service for private school students will come to a halt in August.
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MILLBURY -- With two working parents juggling busy schedules, Rachael Hojnacki doesn't have many options for getting home from school.

The 13-year-old catches a Lake Local Schools bus from Oregon's Kateri Catholic Academy up to five afternoons a week.

But that option will disappear this August.

Because of declining ridership and a push to save money, Lake Local Schools will stop busing students who live in the district to private schools.

"We were very upset," said her father, Tom Hojnacki of Lake Township, noting that he pays taxes to Lake schools even though his only child does not attend class there. "It caught us by surprise."

Busing those students costs about $95,000 annually for Lake schools, a district that has struggled to pass levies and that projects a $500,000 budget hole in early 2013, district treasurer Jeff Carpenter said.

The board of education voted last month to put a 6.75-mill, three-year operating levy on the Aug. 7 ballot.

But Superintendent Jim Witt said that even if voters approve the levy, the district would not reinstate the busing.

The district, which laid off two bus drivers in March, will pay a $225 stipend per student to help parents cover the expense of getting their children to and from school. Mr. Witt could not provide an estimate of how much the stipends will cost the district but said the outlay will be less than providing busing.

With the two layoffs, the district will employ 19 bus drivers next school year.

About two dozen students ride the bus to parochial schools outside the district this year, compared with about 120 in 2005, said Mr. Witt, adding that he did not know what caused the drop.

The students go to St. Ursula Academy, St. Francis de Sales High School, St. John's Jesuit High School & Academy, Central Catholic High School, Toledo Christian Schools, and Kateri schools, according to the district, which could not provide numbers for how many students went to each school.

Mr. Witt said a "handful of parents" complained about the plan to halt the busing.

For parents who work -- Mr. Hojnacki is an insurance auditor and his wife, Lorraine, is a nurse -- the cuts are disheartening.

"We didn't even know they were contemplating this," he said. "We had no idea." The best option for Rachael to get home could be a new bus shuttle run through her Catholic school in Oregon, he said.

The Rev. Eric Schild, president of Kateri Catholic Schools, said the plan was in the works since last year, before Lake schools cut busing.

The charge is to be $275 for a student to ride one way and $550 to ride round trip. The tentative routes are in two loops. One route is planned with stops at Suder Avenue and Ottawa River Road in Point Place, Alexis Road and Lewis Avenue in Toledo, and Monroe Street and Talmadge Road in Toledo. The second has stops at Byrne Road and Glendale Avenue in Toledo, Airport Highway between Reynolds and Holland-Sylvania roads in the Holland area; and Levis Commons in Perrysburg.

Father Schild could not provide estimates of how much the school will spend on busing.



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