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I applaud the in-depth report by Shereen Siewert and Damakant Jayshi, as published in their article in the February 1, 2023 issue of Wausau Pilot and Review. The article explained a great deal of what many community members are concerned about.
I attended the January 23 meeting at Wausau West. I spoke at that meeting. As I addressed my concerns, I was somewhat belittled for not knowing more, as two Board members felt the District had done an overwhelming job of notifying the public. I asked neighbors and friends if they were aware of public informational meetings, and none were aware. If I had known of a meeting at Rib Mountain School, a few blocks from our home, I certainly would have attended. I was surprised at some of the plans – putting 5th graders in John Muir? Can our children have recesses, be children, socialize? Student ten-hour days because of busing?
First, shifting children every which way to different schools, not yet knowing which elementary schools would be closed – causing more stress for parents and children. Some parents do not have a vehicle, so being able to walk a young child to school, attend student/teacher conferences, school programs/concerts, any school events should be encouraged, not removed. Students should not be on a bus at 6:00 a.m., or for over one hour morning and afternoon. Schools are the backbones of our neighborhoods. It is the glue for families; in certain cases, it is a safety network. This is a startling problem especially when you are considering busing junior high and senior high students totally across town. The parent or student that can walk to his/her school can attend functions after school. Outside of their neighborhood, many students and families will be left out of important activities! Think of the outlying townships, trying to get across town for everyday activities.
By keeping current Junior and Senior High Schools where they are, and shuttle busing students that wish to attend certain classes offered at the other high school across town would certainly be much more cost effective and not split families. ( Possibly, use city buses for shuttles back and forth – could save the district money and help the city bus system??) Surely, the school district and city officials could figure out suitable schedules. Students wishing to enroll in a school on the other side of town can do so with open enrollment.
Second, the busing situation this year has been in turmoil. Most parents do not appreciate receiving a text at 6:00 a.m. telling them they must find a way for their children to get to school. How does that fit with, “We do everything by putting our students first” I believe any bus company is having a hard time finding drivers now. To assume any bus company will be able to formulate routes, schedules, or bids for years down the road under current circumstances, is dreaming. Research takes time. The district needs solid numbers. At the Board meeting, four board members felt this very immense project should be voted on that night, pushed forward, and bumps can be handled when they come up. Really? Bumps cost money. That attitude seemed unrealistic to so many parents concerned with not being heard.
I am deeply grateful for the five Board members having the common sense to see this project needs a great deal more research. The amount of time needed to look at all aspects, from all angles, is more important than pushing this through without concrete plans our community can get behind.
Please, board members, be considerate of what this will do to families, how many more families will leave, (and they will, as we are seeing), and parents, please call board members, or write letters, send emails. This is very important. We need our neighborhood schools. We can find workable solutions.
Beverly Kordus, Wausau