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Study shows few NR students riding buses

Only 40 percent of New Richmond students are riding the bus, and no one is sure why.

That means about 1,700 students are not taking the bus.

Brian Johnston, director of fiscal and building operations, said he observed 139 cars lined up outside Hillside Elementary one morning. Some were staff, but most were parents, he said.

The New Richmond School District hired Tom Watson, of Watson Consulting Group, last month to study the bus system in town and help make routes more efficient. What he found was that New Richmond doesn't have much of a problem.

"He found our ride time is good for a district our size," Veilleux said.

On average, a morning ride takes 45 minutes; an afternoon ride takes 47 minutes.

The biggest problem with New Richmond's bus routes is the time students are sitting on the bus during transfers to different schools -- between 13 and 21 minutes, Veilleux said.

"Having our buses run half empty doesn't make any sense," said Bryan Schafer, Board member.

To help make the routes more efficient, the Board will consider different options:

• Changing the areas in which the buses serve. State law allows schools to discontinue service to students living within two miles of the school they attend. Currently, New Richmond requires middle school and high school students living within one and a half miles of the school to walk.

• Changing to a two-pass system. The two-pass system would make an initial pass of the city, deliver students to their respective schools and then go out and make another pass. It would require additional mileage, but fewer buses.

The next step is to survey the number of vehicles driving students to and from school, Veilleux said. Having 139 surveyed at Hillside Elementary means similar problems are likely happening at the other schools.

In other business, the Board:

• Approved an increase in school lunches for sixth through 12th grade. The lunches will increase from $1.90 to $1.95. The statewide average for school lunches is $2. The elementary students will experience an increase in milk prices from 27 cents to 30 cents.

"All that this is... is to try to help us break even," said Veilleux.

Should the District fall short when it comes to paying for lunches, the general fund, which is used to pay for other school related things, will make up the difference.

The increase is proposed for Jan. 5.

• Discussed the five-year curriculum plan. The Board approved several additions to the District's offerings including online classes, additional social studies classes and Spanish classes starting at the kindergarten level.

The new additions will require more staffing, said Deb Heyerdahl, director of instruction and staff development. According to the plan, roughly 11 new staff members will be hired over the next five years.

• Discussed the Richmond Way project costs. The project is totaling $1.4 for the road, Veilleux said. Originally, the Board budgeted $800,000 for the high school site work, which included the road, he said.

"It's certainly more than what we planned," he said. "It's an awful expensive piece of road that I don't even know if it's a half a mile."

The change in price happened when the City requested changes to the project -- including thicker copper piping, wider road, stoplights and a center island.

The extra cost will be paid by earned interest, Veilleux said. Currently, the District has earned $1.86 million in interest; it expects to earn $2.2 million by the end of the project.

• Board members Rick Hinz and Bryan Schafer, both up for election in 2009, announced they will seek re-election in April.

Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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