KINGSTON — Wyoming Valley West is poised to become the second local school district to stop transporting children to or from day care centers, and the school board is facing the same earful Wilkes-Barre Area got in 2015 .
“We didn’t stop it yet, but we will in November,” Wyoming Valley West School Board President Joe Mazur said. “We will do whatever we have to do lawfully, but we’re trying to save dollars wherever we can.”
Mazur echoed the same arguments Wilkes-Barre Area officials made when they opted to stop day care transportation: Offering bus rides to private day care centers is not required by state law, and some centers take advantage of the service for their own profit at taxpayer expense.
“The bottom line is we did talk to these people during the last school term and told them we were researching this,” Mazur said. “Of course, they weren’t happy. I wouldn’t be happy either if I was a day care center operator. But money is tight and we’re trying to keep our heads above water.”
The Times Leader received several complaints about the change. Jasie Hunter said she had not seen a letter but had heard the district sent one to notify centers that the district will no longer pick up or drop off children for day care. Hunter said she did see a copy of the letter on Facebook, and that she works in a day care in Swoyersville.
“I asked my boss about it,” she said. “They are doing this to cut costs and say that the day care riders are causing overcrowding on the bus.
“They are trying to stop us even though we have a right,” she added.
Technically, state law does not require districts to provide any transportation at all. The law does require, however, that if the district does offer transportation to its students, it must also agree to transport school-age students to any non-public school within the district or within 10 miles of the district boundaries.
When Wilkes-Barre Area stopped serving day care centers, then-Superintendent Bernard Prevuznak estimated it saved about $228,000 the first year. Wyoming Valley West’s exact savings won’t be known until after the policy has been in place for a few months, Business Manager Joe Rodriguez said, but he had drawn up estimates of savings for each bus run eliminated.
The district pays bus contractors by the vehicle, not by the number of people transported. That’s one reason it could offer to transport day care students in the first place: If there was room on a bus, it didn’t cost any more to offer transportation.
Mazur said the problem is that demand has grown so much for day care transportation that the district had to add a bus or two to meet the requests, driving up costs. Rodriguez said it costs the district about $39,000 a year to contract one bus for 180 days of school. He said he believes consolidating bus routes — eliminating day care transportation — could reduce the need for one and possibly two vehicles, for a savings of up to $78,000 the first year.
Wyoming Valley West Superintendent Irv DeRemer did not return a call Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday was the first day of school in the district.
Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish