KINGSTON — Stephanie Baumer was almost overlooked by the Wyoming Valley West School Board, standing on her toes to reach the podium microphone even as Board President Joe Mazur began regular board business. When Mazur noticed her, he apologized three times, and she spoke about the looming loss of bus transportation from day care centers.
“I’m a single mother of two little girls,” Baumer said Wednesday, noting she works “in the medical field” supporting them, ages 5 and 9. “We are supposed to be a community working together and setting examples for these children,” she added. “I need to work, I have a mortgage and I have to pay.”
Baumer worried her children would have to walk home alone at such a young age, and that “I could be losing my job over this.” She begged the board to reconsider a decision to stop transporting students to and from day care centers.
In all, six parents spoke — including one mother holding a child who, in turn, clung to a little stuffed animal. All voiced similar concerns. One called the decision “discrimination” against working parents while another said the move is “punishing gainfully employed, middle class parents.”
Brenda Bloom, who runs Bloom Early Education Center in Swoyersville, said the move impacts up to 150 students, and that depriving those students of before- and after-school care would hurt the district because studies show students getting such care “have higher emotional IQs, are less likely to bully, are more social and more resilient.”
Bloom and other parents sought some compromise, possibly having bus stops near the centers where teachers could walk the students to the stop. One parent suggested eliminating other designated stops and making the day cares official tops.
After the meeting, Mazur said those ideas wouldn’t fix the problem, in large part because there are 14 day care centers involved and most of them did not respond to district requests for information regarding students taking district transportation.
That can mean the district won’t know how many students are at a center each day, he said. It can also mean parents from anywhere, even outside the district, could be using the centers to get their children into district schools.
Solicitor Charles Coslett noted state law requires that, if a district transports students, it must arrange transportation “from point of residence,” but is not required to transport from day cares.
The move, to begin in November, is being made to save money. Eliminating day care centers from bus routes is expected to cut at least one bus from the daily runs, possibly two, at a cost of about $39,000 per bus per year. Mazur said they won’t know the final savings until the change is implemented.
But he added the change will make it easier to streamline other bus routes, predicting that by next year the district may be able to eliminate several more vehicles from the daily runs.
Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish