Also last week, the District 97 school board took up a consultant’s report that raises the possibility, albeit (judging from the board discussion) faint, of eliminating the school bus program. Seems dramatic. Also dramatic, as we look at paying for a salary hike for teachers, is the more than $500,000 in potential cost savings in dropping the buses.
We’d note D97 has not always bused kids to and fro within this pretty small piece of real estate we call Oak Park. Busing came to pass in the 1970s after two neighborhood schools, then called Emerson and Hawthorn, were converted into junior highs. Now they are called middle schools and have been rechristened as Percy Julian and Gwendolyn Brooks.
School officials argue the buses aren’t as needed as they had been in the past and that contracts with bus companies offer few ways to cut costs.
We gather the school board would like to avoid a notable parent backlash if this service is severely reduced or eliminated. We know that various options and timelines are likely to be discussed.
We also know that avoiding/delaying a tax hike referendum is a priority even as a new teacher contract is being negotiated. Tough choices are necessary. And we’d prefer to give up a short bus ride to being threatened with the loss of music, art or some less ambitious contract with faculty.