December 28, 2011 - Adrienne Boaz realizes what she wants is probably a long shot and cost prohibitive, but she's throwing it out there to see what other people think.
"It might be a wacky idea, but I've got to try," said the Oxford resident of 13 years.
Boaz would like to see Oxford's middle school and high school students bused separately.
Currently, they're transported together and have been "for at least 15 years," according to an e-mail Boaz received from Bruce Biebuyck, supervisor of the district's maintenance and transportation department.
But Boaz is concerned about middle school students being exposed to situations and conversations involving subject matter that "they're not prepared for psychologically or emotionally."
"There's a huge age difference and they're not on the same level," she said. "A sixth-grader is at a totally different emotional/psychological level than a junior or senior. They're thinking about totally different things."
Right now, Boaz doesn't have any children attending either the middle school or high school, so her desire to see separate busing isn't based on any personal experiences or incidents.
Both of her daughters attend Lakeville Elementary. But she's concerned about what's going to happen when her oldest child, a fourth-grader, starts riding the bus as a middle school student.
"I've always been a forward-thinker," she said.
Boaz called around to other school districts and found there are those that do separate busing.
"I wanted to see how common it was," she said.
In Clarkston, she was told sixth and seventh-graders ride separately from grades 8-12, which ride together. In Lake Orion, she was informed elementary, middle school and high school students are all bused separately. In Brandon, Boaz found out K-6 students are bused together as one group, while grades 7-12 are bused together as a separate group.
Prior to the holiday, the Leader e-mailed Oxford Superintendent Dr. William Skilling a list of questions regarding the busing issue and the concerns raised by Boaz, however, there was no response.
When Boaz asked Biebuyck the reason why the two groups of students ride the buses together in Oxford, he replied via e-mail, "It is more expensive to transport them separately and I would say that is the reason behind the decision."
"All districts are having to do more with less and sometimes hard decisions have to be made to operate the district," Biebuyck wrote.
Biebuyck was kind enough to provide Boaz with a financial breakdown of how much it would cost to separately bus the two student groups.
He indicated that in order to make it happen, the district would need to purchase an additional 10 new buses, which cost about $80,000 each for a total of $800,000. He noted purchasing used buses could reduce this cost, however, they would lead to increased maintenance costs.
Driving those extra buses would add about 7,160 hours annually to the transportation department's payroll. Given the average hourly rate for a driver is $15.50, that would translate into an additional $110,980 annually.
Given it costs the district $2 for every mile one of its buses travels, Biebuyck calculated 10 extra buses would cost $136,040 annually to operate and maintain. He derived that figure by taking the length of the average route, which is 38 miles, and multiplying it by $2 per mile, then multiplying that total by 10 buses, then multiplying that amount by 179 school days.
When all's said and done, it would cost the district a total of $1.047 million to begin busing the middle school and high school students separately.
When asked if she thinks that cost is worth it, Boaz replied, "I think it is, but I'm probably in the minority. I totally think it's worth it."
Boaz is curious if any other parents agree with her or at least share her concerns.
"I want to find out what other people think," she said. "Am I really in the minority? Maybe I'm not."
"I'd like to get people's reactions," Boaz continued. "Is this feasible? Is this something people want to pursue? I want to pursue it, but I can't come up with all that money."
Boaz believes if the majority of people think it's a good idea, "then maybe we could try to think of ways to come up with the money to cover that cost."
"I figured if they could come up with money for blue turf (using private funds), maybe we can come up with money for this, which I think is way more important," she said.
Boaz invites other parents to share their thoughts with her by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.