Monday December 17, 2012

ZEKE WRIGHT

Staff Writer

CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. -- Cambridge Central School board members approved a new late transportation request to again provide daily busing for district children attending Grace Christian School, adding they were glad to do so.

Board member Tom Wolski noted the request at last Tuesday's meeting, and said he was happy to approve the daily trip now that it would be fully aided under district policy and state law. The board approved the route to begin January following the winter break, and a separate budget transfer Tuesday shifted $11,388 to cover associated costs.

Under New York state law, public school districts are obligated to provide transportation for students living in the district who attend a nonpublic school within 15 miles of their own residence. Those trips, from school to school, factor into state aid formulas for transportation costs, which currently reimburse the district about two-thirds on every dollar.

For more than a decade, CCS provided a daily run to Bennington, Vt., to drop off a cohort of pupils enrolled at Grace Christian and also Southshire Community School in North Bennington, Vt. In 2010, CCS sent 20 students to the two schools.

At the end of the 2010-11 year, however, the lone student who was "mileage eligible" stopped attending Grace Christian, and none of the remaining pupils qualified -- as they all resided more than 15 miles away from Grace Christian. The school board subsequently denied the transportation request for the remaining students for the 2011-12 school year because of the negative consequences to state aid. (In addition to not receiving aid, the added "non-aidable" miles would also negatively affect the reimbursement rate for all transportation aid.)

Last spring, the district received a petition requesting a ballot article that would have revised the school's transportation policy to increase the 15-mile limit to 18. Board members considered the measure but decided against putting it on the ballot after discovering that extended range could expose the district to upwards of $95,000 in additional cost, depending on bus lines to three other nonpublic schools nearby.

Because of a new request by a parent who lives within the allowable radius to Grace Christian, as approved Tuesday, Dec. 11, CCS will again provide busing to that school for the children of eight families beginning in January for the remainder of the 2012-13 school year. Out-of-district transportation requests are made annually each spring or summer.