Dave Davidson kind of started to sound like a broken record at a school board Transportation Policy Committee meeting.
But in this case, that's a good thing.
Davidson thinks Crookston Public Schools could score some points with local families – he called them "customers" and "clients" more than once during the meeting – by putting in place a busing policy that's more flexible than the current one.
As administrators and board members around the table presented scenarios reaching various points on the doomsday scale, Davidson repeatedly returned to the simple fact that a fairly simple policy could be formulated and approved with a larger degree of customer convenience in mind that wouldn't necessarily trigger the apocalypse. At its core, he said, would be "controlled flexibility."
As the policy currently stands, a policy that's been in place since 2010, when administrators decided enough was enough with parents seemingly calling schools all day every day with various busing requests and/or demands for their kids, there is no real flexibility. It's known as a "one-stop" policy, which means the district gives a family one option and one option only when it comes to a pick-up or drop-off location. If that location needs to be altered, families have to provide 10 days notice.
Which means, if you have a child who has swimming practice three days a week at the same time after school for an entire athletic season, getting dropped off at the pool is not an option. Same goes for any practices at Crookston Sports Center. The bus won't take a kid there, for example, three days a week after school, and home after school the other two days.
Davidson's right. Making a policy that provides more flexibility for families, but "doesn't let them go crazy" is entirely doable. Include specific timeline guidelines. Include a maximum limit of allowed requests. If a family fails to meet those guidelines, the request will be denied. There's no fear of discrimination there, it's just abiding by policy.
Davidson's push is about open enrollment. The district has a net loss of more than 100 students every single day of the school year, the vast majority of which attend school in Fisher down the highway. He says he knows of several families who open enroll their kids mostly because of the rigid busing policy here.
Chances are, if a family has established itself in the Fisher School, that family won't return to Crookston because a more family-friendly busing policy has been put in place. But this is about sending a message, and it's about giving future families another reason to not open enroll in the first place.
While on the subject of busing, maybe a heartfelt conversation on discipline issues and bullying on buses and at bus stops needs to be had as well. Discipline issues and, specifically, kids swearing on buses were mentioned at last week's committee meeting, prompting a light-hearted, yet sarcastic remark about the Fisher bus apparently being the only bus on the planet home to kids who are never, ever heard uttering a cuss word.
Page 2 of 2 - Lots of kids swear, it's true. They always have, and they probably always will. But there's a lot of rumbling in Crookston right now about kids being bullied on buses and at bus stops. When that rumbling reaches something like Facebook, it can become an earthquake of nasty publicity. You want to stem the open enrollment tide? Tackle issues like that head-on, too, and do so in open, candid fashion.