Morrill Public Schools school board members are looking at potentially changing one of the district’s bus routes at its next board meeting.
Currently, MPS’s Lyman route picks up students house-to-house, but after a bus driver change, a proposal was drawn up to change that to a six-stop route. Superintendent Joe Sherwood said the proposal was a result of the previous Scottsbluff/Gering/Mitchell route driver switching to the Lyman route. The Scottsbluff/Gering/Mitchell route only has one stop at each town.
“The new bus driver said, ‘Why are we doing it this way? Why don’t we do it the other way? Why don’t we do it like we do in Scottsbluff?’ And he had proposed two bus (stops),” Sherwood said. “I took that request to the school board, and together we said, ‘I don’t know that two bus stops … are enough.’ So, we went to a six-stop proposal.”
Sherwood said the proposal would save students time on the bus as well as save the school district money by reducing the amount of time the bus driver is driving.
“It’s not uncommon for people to go to joint locations for bus stops,” he said. “In the town of Lyman, while it’s certainly different from the norm, going from approximately 22 stops to six stops, with no one needing to walk or drive farther than three blocks, is not an inconvenience different than the inconvenience (of) the accommodations that we’re making to our parents in Morrill, where we have two stops for a bigger town.”
The proposal, which the school board will likely decide on at the Sept. 13 meeting, was met with some opposition, however.
A Facebook post about the bus route proposal on the Morrill Elementary Facebook page was met with multiple comments criticizing the idea.
One of those persons commenting included Lyman resident and grandmother of students who ride the Lyman bus route, Peggy Robinson. Robinson told the Star-Herald that she had multiple concerns about the possible switch.
“I think it’s been within the last year, though, we’ve had a gentleman who has been trying — that has tried to pick up children,” she said. “And for that purpose alone, I don’t like the idea of kids — a lot of these kids are walking by themselves, and these predators watch closely.
“… The consistency isn’t there. One time they might be there at seven in the morning and the next time it might be 7:20. So these kids get out of their house at a certain time and either they’ve missed the bus because it got there earlier, or they’re standing out in the cold. … The thing is right now they can stand in their houses and wait for the bus, and they can watch for it.”
Besides, Robinson said, the bus goes through town anyway.
“Lyman is not that big, first of all. So, it’s not a huge difference between the time they would get off normally, and the time they would get home (from the bus stop),” she said. “You figure by the time they get off at the bus stop, and they walk whatever distance to get to their houses, it’s not going make a lot of difference.”
Robinson isn’t the only one who is concerned about the switch. A survey to get the public’s input, specifically those who’d be affected by the route change, was attached to the announcement made on Facebook and on the school’s website. According to survey results as of Thursday, Sept. 2, Sherwood said there had been no feedback that supported the switch.
One question asked respondents to respond to the statement: “If the School Board decides to transition to the bus stops, it would likely reduce the total time children are on the bus, it would reduce the time for the bus driver, and therefore save money for the district.”
Of the four options that could be selected, the majority of the respondents said, “It might be better for the school, but it feels worse to me as a parent.”
“I think what this (survey) says is, the parents would rather leave it as it is, and that’s entirely clear and obvious,” Sherwood said. “There’s some people — in fact, one of the comments was, ‘If this is the way we’ve been doing it for all the years in the past, why are we changing it now all of a sudden?’ So, people often would rather just continue to do what we’ve always done, because we’ve always done it.”
Sherwood said that in the event the school board would adopt the new route, Morrill Public Schools would make sure to work with parents and guardians when inclement weather affects pick up or drop off.
“We would accommodate bad weather conditions, knowing that it might take people a little longer to get to the bus stop if they’re waiting to see that the bus got there before their kids go, wait in the car or stand in the cold,” he said. “So sometimes, you know wintery weather conditions cause bus routes to be a little longer because it takes longer for people to get there. And that’s been the way it has been. … On those days, we accommodate that to make sure that kids are safe.”
Still, the decision has yet to be made, and Sherwood said he was grateful for the feedback he had received so far in the form of the survey responses.
“It certainly provided us the feedback that we’re hoping for,” he said. “…We didn’t really ask the question, ‘Do you want us to do this or not?’ Because I know the answer to that question is going to be ‘no,’ right? … But if we do it, how are we going to manage it? How are they going to personally manage it? Knowing that their parents will either walk them to the bus stop, or they will drive them to the bus stop, shows that we have really good parents, and they’re going to take care of their kids and make sure that they’re safe on the way to and from school.”
For Robinson, who’ll likely attend the Sept. 13 meeting, the bus route will hopefully stay the same. Either way, she said, she is grateful for the school’s busing system in general.
“We’re very appreciative we’ve got the bus … and on a whole, they do a great job right now,” she said. “… Their reasons, I understand where they’re trying to get just locations, but I think when it all comes down to it, I think in the end, it’s not going to be an improvement for the kids, the parents, and I don’t see where it’s going to be a great advantage for the school.”
Parents or guardians in Lyman who would like to share their thoughts on the proposed bus route change are asked to complete the survey before the Sept. 13 meeting. The survey can be found at https://freeonlinesurveys.com/s/PEv3J7Jh. The proposed change will not affect rural students who live outside city limits.