School buses

School buses (FILE PHOTO)

As a new teacher many years ago, Davenport School Board member Bill Sherwood remembers seeing a student arrive in class one very cold morning with blood running down his neck.

The boy’s earlobes had frozen as he walked to school, and were bleeding as they thawed, the now-retired Sherwood said.

For some students, especially the youngest ones, riding the school bus is a matter of safety and health, Sherwood and others said Monday night as they voted 4-2 against proposed transportation cuts that would have expanded elementary walk zones from 1 1/2 miles to 2 miles, eliminated paid-conditional busing and ended bus rides to babysitters or childcare facilities after school.

Board president Ralph Johanson and member Rich Clewell voted in favor of the proposed cuts. Board member Ken Krumwiede was absent from the meeting.

“When it comes to students, my first thought is always, ‘How do we serve them?’ board member Larry Roberson said. “We don’t serve them by taking things away so they might not get to school or come to school late. There is no way I can look at things that directly affect students when we have not looked at things that do not affect students.”

Board member Nikki DeFauw said she would like to see administration bring back a modified plan to reduce transportation costs, which included some options for parents in place of the proposed cuts.

She and other board members said they would like to see the district continue conversations with the Scott County Family Y and the city of Davenport’s bus system officials to come up with possible alternatives for childcare transportation.

The only community member to speak about the issue Monday was Tonja Scott-Pate of Davenport, who said her 8-year-old granddaughter rides the bus from Jefferson-Edison Elementary School to the Y’s after-school program. She would be afraid to have the child walk all that way on her own, she said.

“And I haven’t been offered the opportunity for an alternative,” Scott-Pate said to applause from the audience.

Clewell said he supports the transportation cuts “reluctantly,” because the district is facing the task of cutting $3 million from its budget for next school year.

“We’re going to have to find ways to do things with less money,” he said. “I think the low-hanging fruit is gone. I don’t think there are going to be any easy decisions as far as staying fiscally accountable in our district.”

However, the vote does not mean the district is done looking at possible transportation cuts, including some of the options mentioned Monday night. Some board members said that if the various proposals were brought forward again in separate motions, they might consider parts of the reduction plan.