School bus loading

The Waseca School District bus limit was moved to 1 mile for kindergarten through 12th graders for the 2019-20 school year. (File photo)

More students of Waseca Public Schools will be able to utilize busing services, starting next school year, thanks to a change district leaders agreed to Thursday.

The Waseca School Board unanimously voted in favor of lowering the bus limit for kindergarten through 12th-grade students to 1 mile, starting with the 2019-20 school year. This means any students living 1 mile from their school or further will be eligible to ride the bus to and from school.

Currently bus transportation is available for kindergarten through third grade students who live one mile or farther away from school. That was a change was implemented at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year. Fourth through 12th-grade students who lived 2 miles or more from the school were also able to ride.

The new policy, 1 mile for all K-12, was officially established with the board’s vote Thursday.

“It’s primarily a matter of safety, and it fits in the current strategic plan,” said Waseca Superintendent Tom Lee, who presented the plan to the board ahead of its vote.

The Waseca School Board asked the district to look into changing the busing limit because of the concern for students’ safety and the amount of traffic that is seen at the Waseca Intermediate School, which members wanted to see cut down.

“We had a meeting with families and thought the families asked some good questions and the general feel was that parents were encouraged,” Lee said.

Lee was at a PTO meeting, along with representatives from Lenz Bus Service and Palmer Bus Service, and they were able to answer some questions parents had on the change.

One question was if a parent could purchase bus passes for their students if they do not meet the 1-mile limit. The plan is still in the works, but at the moment, the answer is “No” until the buses know how close to capacity they stand.

“There are all kinds of possibilities depending on capacity of the buses,” Lee said.

There is no need for additional buses or drivers with the plan, which was created by Lenz and Palmer bus services. The idea is to have bus passes for students 1 mile or further away, so the bus drivers know who is on the bus and who is not supposed to be on the bus. As a monitoring and safety feature, students would swipe their pass as they board and leave the bus, so bus drivers would know exactly where the student got on and off.

An exception that is being made right away is for Vista Villa. The one-mile radius cuts through the middle of Vista Villa, so all students will be allowed to ride the bus who live there.

School Board Chair Julie Anderson said she heard comments from parents at the PTO meeting who thought the pass was a bonus. The final plan for the bus plan will be done in June and numbers will be finalized after open house nights in July and August.

Reach Reporter Bailey Grubish at 507-837-5451 or follow her on Twitter @wcnbailey.

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