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Lakeland shuffles transportation routes

Looking to improve the efficiency and even out the rates paid to bus drivers, Lakeland Transportation Director Chris Blaize presented a proposal to the Lakeland School Board Monday evening.

“We started by looking at reducing some of the longer ride times,” Blaize told the board. “From that, a couple of things happened. It made things more efficient and made the hours for the drivers more consistent.” By making the driving time more consistent, he added, it would help even out driver pay.

One change will be in the Impact Institute route, which transports students to the school in Kendallville. The change would make it a shuttle route, with one driver taking students there in the morning and then returning, while a second driver would pick them up in the afternoon. In the past, one driver remained in the Kendallville area throughout the day to bring the students back to Lakeland.

The rerouting for bus routes at Parkside Elementary will result in one less route. No driver will be let go, but an empty position will not be filled.

In the end, Blaize told the board, all but three drivers will have the same driving time and earn the same amount of pay. The three drivers not driving the same as the others will remain on their current rate until they leave their route, Blaize said.

When questioned, Blaize did admit that the changes will mean some students will have a longer ride time, but they are working to minimize that. He was also questioned about the apparent raise for drivers at a time when the district isn’t increasing pay for teachers. The increases for some drivers will be offset by the savings in the transportation budget from the reduction of a position, Blaize explained. “The real answer is that they are not getting a raise,” Board President Bob Bond observed. “They are getting more money for an increase in the time they drive their route.”

The board went on to approve the recommendation for the changes.

In other business:

The board received a report on the LHS Honor Lab that was initially discussed in February, when the board questioned the usefulness and need for honors students using a period during the day for school work.

Principal Anthony Harl told the board that 11 students used the lab in the second trimester and eight in the third. A couple of students from the second trimester had applied for the third session, but were turned down and told they needed to use the period for classes more aligned with their career path and goals. Applications for the honor lab are reviewed by the principal and guidance department, the board was told. “We are talking about high performing students using the honor lab to reduce some stress,” Harl said. These are often students who are taking multiple honors courses, as well as extracurricular activities.

“I popped in a few times to look,” board member Sue Keenan said. “Those kids were on task.”

As the honor lab is for juniors and seniors only, Harl added, administrators will have a good sense of whether or not the students are responsible enough to utilize the honor lab.

The board approved the employment of Kiersten Reeve and McCartney Cintron as 6th grade teachers.

Shari Tarnow was employed as an English teacher at Lakeland High School.

The board approved a 10¢ increase in meal prices, with Bob Bond and board member Bob Murphy voting against the increase. Murphy noted that the increase was not due to any need for the school corporation to increase the fees, but rather due to a mandate by the federal government.

The board accepted a $50,000 Dekko grant for Project Based Learning (PBL) training.