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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • School board: Would more convenient busing, more positive publicity stem the open enrollment tide?

  • Board member Davidson determined to find out.
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  • Would more Crookston parents decide to keep their kids in the local school district instead of open enrolling them to districts down the highway if the Crookston school bus schedule was more convenient and accommodating for them? How about if school board members and other school leaders formed a Publicity Committee to do a better job of telling the "good news" in the Crookston School District?
    Those were two ideas pitched by Crookston School Board member Dave Davidson at Mondays' board meeting. As a result, he's going to head up a revamped committee charged with publicizing and marketing the good things going on in the district – a small committee has existed for some time but has never met – and board members at their next meeting will get a detailed report on what could possibly be done to make the local bus schedule and/or policies more user-friendly for Crookston families.
    Davidson added the two items to Monday's meeting agenda. On the bus issue, he said he'd spoken to parents who said they open enroll their kids elsewhere specifically because of Crookston's busing policies. "They can get bus service that's more hospitable to them in other districts," Davidson said. "There may be good reasons for why we do what we do here, but I don't know those reasons because I don't have enough information. I would like to know more about what goes into our busing policies."
    So Transportation/Buildings and Grounds Director Rick Niemela, Superintendent Chris Bates, some board members and anyone else with something to lend to the discussion will over the next couple of weeks put a report together to be presented to the board.
    "I'd like an update on what we're doing, but I would also like to find out if there's enough flexibility in our schedule if someone is teetering between going here, or going there," Davidson said.
    When it comes to busing, the specific complaint some parents have voiced in recent years is that in smaller school districts down the highway – Fisher and Climax-Shelly send buses into Crookston each day to pick up and drop off students – kids are picked up right in front of their house. In Crookston, Niemela said, buses typically stop within three to five blocks of kids' houses. Board Chair Frank Fee wondered Monday if the amount of additional educational revenue coming into the local district from students who stay here because of more convenient busing, and don't open enroll, would at least offset the additional cost of picking up kids at their homes, not blocks away.
    Davidson said that, as still a relative newcomer to the board, he simply wants information to educate himself, so he can be informed when various issues are presented to him.
    "If there's just no way we can pick them up (at their homes), then fine," he said. "But two or three families have told me specifically they go elsewhere because of busing. How many more families like that are out there?"
    Page 2 of 2 - Bates said the next couple weeks will be marked by a "fact-finding mission" on local busing policies and determining what, if anything, could be changed.
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