Blue Ridge discusses busing changes

BY STACI WILSON

As Blue Ridge considers moving to single-tier busing in the 2013-14 school year, the school board is looking for feedback from district parents and residents.
At the Monday, Feb. 25 workshop meeting, board members discussed the need to hold special meetings to hear community input.
Board President Laurie Brown-Bonner asked if the school should be used as a venue for one or two large meetings or if several, small meetings should be held in various, district communities.
Board member Christina Whitney said she felt that, if widely advertised, “they will come here.”
Board member Shane Rumage agreed, “It’s a passionate issue.”
Currently the district runs a two-tier busing system with middle and high school students bused separately from elementary students. High and middle school students begin and end their day one hour before the elementary school.
Superintendent Robert McTiernan said tentative runs had been set up in an effort to illustrate what the busing schedule would look like.
He also said, “The numbers show we’re in good shape.”
Cost-wise McTiernan said a move to a single-tier system will not cost more and may even be less than what the district currently pays in transportation expenses.
The next step, he said, is to build “real-time” routes and meet in mid-March with the bus contractors – some of whom, he said, have expressed concern that some routes may not be lucrative. “We need their input,” McTiernan said.
The superintendent expects to have information available for the public in early April.
The board also discussed supporting Leatherstocking Gas as an anchor customer in the New Milford area.
Currently, the school uses fuel oil to heat the facility, along with a wood chip burner in colder weather.
While natural gas is still more costly than the bulk wood chips, according to business manager Loren Small, is does offer a significant savings over fuel oil.
Cost to the district would be in the conversion from oil to gas. But McTiernan reminded the board that the oil heater is “nearing its life-span.”
At the Monday, March 4 business meeting, a resolution in support of Leatherstocking is expected to come up for a vote by the board.
The board is also expecting to make some changes in the usage of the fitness room in the high school, including hiring a monitor for the facility.
The Wellness Committee is proposing that the fitness room be open, Monday-Thursday, 3-5 p.m. for ninth through 12th graders; and 5:15-9 p.m., for adult residents of the district.
There is a sign-in procedure and the public using the facility is asked to register and sign a release with the school’s athletic director.
High School Principal Matthew Nebzydoski said the usage changes would be in keeping with the school’s safety policy.