LA VERKIN – In a deal reached several years ago, and under the direction of a former mayor, the city of La Verkin has been paying the Washington County School District $5,400 a year to bus “ineligible” students to Hurricane Middle School.
Due to budget restraints, the city held a public meeting in June asking residents to voice their opinion on the matter, as the city considered no longer paying for the busing of two-dozen students.
In a letter addressed to WCSD Transportation Director Launi Schmutz, and after a 4-0 City Council vote (Hugh Howard abstained from voting as he lives in the affected area), the city of La Verkin expressed their appreciation to the school district, and informed Schmutz they would no longer be paying the fees to the district.
La Verkin Mayor Karl Wilson said the city feels the district should continue busing the students because the route to school is not safe for the children to walk. The students must walk a “hazardous route, as defined by R277-600, Utah Administrative Code” and “bus routes must provide adequate safety, as provided in Rule R277-600-6” the letter stated. “The students must walk along a busy, four-lane state highway, and cross a narrow bridge over a deep canyon.”
The letter continued to describe the dangers students would face while walking and states the “city of La Verkin has no known legislative or administrative authority to provide the funding or the busing …”
In a phone interview with Schmutz, she said it is common for cities to pay a portion of the busing for ineligible students and says the Transportation Department has an agreement with the cities of Washington and St. George for such purposes, as well.
In other areas where students live too far to walk to school, the Transportation Department will also work out an agreement with students’ parents.
Joel Sanders lives in Virgin and said she and her husband arrange their work schedules around the kids’ school times.
“We have to drive them because a bus doesn’t come within 3 miles of our house,” Sanders said.
Sanders said the district reimburses her for some of the miles.
“You submit a request with your children’s attendance record for the year, or by quarter, and then they cut you a check,” she said. “They pay us from our house to the bus stop, but they are really strapped in the transportation department, according to them, so our check [for the last school year] was half of what it has always been.”
However, Sanders said she takes on that responsibility because she chose to live that far away; and she said, in general, “We’re going to have to get used to being more responsible for our own children.”
In La Verkin, 26 middle school students will be affected in the 2011/2012 school year. Students attending Hurricane Intermediate School will not be affected, Schmutz said, as they are considered “eligible” students because the school is farther away and does not fall in the legislative code that states students can walk up to 1.5 miles to school (2 miles for secondary school students). Students attending Hurricane High School would be affected, but Wilson said there might only be one student affected at HHS.
Schmutz said she has been trying to contact each parent of the affected students to schedule a meeting to discuss what parents can do to get their children to school. She said time is running out, as school starts on Aug. 15.
“I’ve tried to contact the majority of them,” she said. “ I’ve called the parents and said ‘I’ve just been alerted this and I don’t have any solutions.’ They’re wondering what to do. They don’t want their children walking.”
Schmutz then asked if La Verkin plans to provide crossing guards. Wilson said La Verkin would continue to have the same crossing guards in place that they have each year for the elementary school.
Schmutz said she would update St. George News as soon as a meeting with parents is scheduled.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2011, all rights reserved.