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Students at Fulton Elementary School board the bus after the end of the school day Tuesday. The River Bend Board of Education on Monday approved the elimination of in-town bus service to students north of 14th Avenue so that a second bus can serve the students south of the avenue, where bus capacity is an issue.

Samantha Pidde/Clinton Herald
Herald Staff Writer

At the beginning of the second quarter of school, in-town River Bend students who live north of 14th Avenue in Fulton will no longer be offered bus services.

A discussion on in-town school buses was held during the Monday night meeting of the River Bend Board of Education after board member Nick Crosthwaite presented his transportation committee report. The school district is not required to provide buses for any students who live within 1.5 miles of the school. Some of the board members agreed that they personally feel in-town buses are unnecessary.

The district, however, has been offering in-town buses for safety reasons. Fourteenth Avenue has been designated a safety hazard by the State of Illinois due to trucks and other traffic from the bridge.

Crosthwaite reported to the board that the transportation committee has been discussing solutions for bus capacity issues being seen on the in-town buses. The district only has two buses for in-town busing. The south bus currently has 75 students on it. Capacity is 77. Crosthwaite said there could be even more students riding once weather gets worse. The north bus is not as close to capacity as the south bus, but it has 50 to 60 students riding it.

Crosthwaite said the committee looked at ways to alleviate the problem. The ideas of eliminating in-town buses or limiting them to only kindergarten to fifth grade were discussed. However, he said this still leaves the problems of the students from the south end crossing 14th Avenue. The committee decided on a recommendation of eliminating busing for students north of 14th and using both buses for the south end of town.

The board members asked Crosthwaite if this is really the best option. Board member Eric Fish asked if the committee had considered a staggered pick-up time system, or other methods of reducing the amount of students on a bus at one time. Crosthwaite said the committee hashed out a lot of scenarios and eliminating the north bus was the best option.

The question was raised if this decision was based on saving money. Crosthwaite said the only money issue would be that if the district did not approve this change, a third bus would be needed. He said the decision was made based solely on the safety of the students riding the bus.

Fish expressed concerns with this suggestion. He felt it would not be fair to bus some students and not bus others. He also felt the committee had not explored other options as much as they should. He suggested they look further into re-working the bus schedules. He also thought the district could look into eliminating both buses and hiring a crossing guard at 14th Avenue.

Eliminating the north bus was approved with a very close vote. Fish and Jane Orman-Luker voted against and Crosthwaite, Mike Ottens and Benji Grant voted for eliminating the north bus.

Board president Dan Portz and board member Chris Barnett were absent.

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