students who live within boundaries are going to have to find their own ride to school this year, following the stoppage of bus service for those students by the District.
The cancellation comes after nearly 30 years of the District providing bus service for St. Damian students.
“We've been doing this for years at no cost, until last year was the first time,” said Allen Jebens, District 145 Superintendent. “We have to make sure we have enough funds to make sure we can take care of the children we're obligated to take care of.”
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Last year, at a fee of $100 per student, 37 students from within the District rode the bus to St. Damian School, which is outside of the District's boundaries, Jebens said.
“If you have a private school outside your district, you are not obligated to provide that transportation,” Jebens said. “We've still done that for all these years, just trying to be good citizens. … So for all these years, we've done it.”
Jebens said that the stoppage comes on the heels of the State of Illinois cutting the district's transportation funding by approximately 50 percent.
He added that although the State never reimbursed the District for busing the students out of district—something the State would have done if the school itself was within the district boundaries—the cuts left the district no choice but to stop the service.
“We want to try and be good citizens, good community members,” Jebens said. “That was always our goal. We realize these are our neighbors. … It was very difficult for the board, for the administration to come to this type of decision.”
While parents last year paid a $100 fee for kids to ride the bus, Jebens said that if the district continued to operate the service, the fee could have risen even higher.
Jebens added that of the parents that have contacted the District, most have been understanding of the move.
“I'm sure there's people who are disappointed, but the parents we've spoken to have been understanding,” he said. “They've been disappointed, but they've been understanding. It's just a sign of the times now.”
For St. Damian Principal Colleen Domke, and the rest of the St. Damian staff and families, the move came as a complete shock.
"We found out at the same time as the parents," Domke said. "We got the letter right around the same time as the parents [in late June]"
Domke added that the move could cost the school a few students, that there is a potential alternative to the bus program. Domke said that the school offers a before and after school program for students whose parents are unable to drop off or pick up students at bell times.
Domkea said that the program costs $5 per hour and begins at 6:45 a.m. until the first bell and runs until 6 p.m. after school.
She added that while this isn't the perfect alternative, it is an option for families.
Patch wants to know, what do you think about this topic? Is it fair that after nearly 30 years of free service, and one year of paid service, that District 145 is cutting bus service for St. Damian kids? How much would you be willing to pay for bus service to St. Damian for your child? Is there anything that can be done? Tell us in the comments below.