STOW — Eligible Stow-Munroe Falls High School students who wish to be assigned a bus route must have their parent or guardian fill out a form on the school district’s website to get busing to and from school.

The deadline to fill out this form is Aug. 1.

The new process only applies to high school students, stated Rob Gress, director of operations, in an undated letter to parents and guardians of high school students. A copy of the letter can be found on the district’s website, at www.smfschools.org.

“In the past, the district has assigned a bus to all high school students further than one mile from the school, whether or not they actually rode the bus,” Gress stated. “As a result, bus routes were assigned to many students who didn’t utilize them — for example, students who drove themselves or who were driven to school. This practice causes many of our high school bus routes to run with only a very few students on them, causing unnecessary travel time.”

High school students eligible for busing, Gress said, are those who either live more than one mile from the school, or students with disabilities where school-provided transportation is part of that student’s Individualized Education Program.

“All high school students who are eligible for transportation are still entitled to and will still receive transportation,” Gress said. “We are simply asking you to tell us that you want your student to be bused. By asking families to communicate their need for us to bus their high school student before we assign them to a route, we will utilize public funds more efficiently. Students who don’t tell us they need busing will not be assigned a bus, allowing for shorter, quicker and more efficient bus routes.”

Parents who change their minds later in the school year can call the transportation department at 330-689-5234 to get their teen assigned to a route, Gress said.

“You can change your high school student’s status at any time,” Gress said. “If you don’t request busing now, and want your student transported later, you can let us know and we will start transportation services immediately after hearing from you.”

Matt Gaugler, business director of the Nordonia Hills City Schools, said the students at Nordonia High School are assigned a route.

“In our experience, while high school students need transportation more sporadically than younger ages — due to sports, other activities, work, being able to drive themselves, etc. — it is generally best to leave them routed so when they need to ride, they can,” Gaugler said. “I’ve heard that districts are trying this method to attempt to save on busing costs. Data shows that those savings are marginal in the bigger scheme of things. What you save in the short term may not be worth the frustration families go through when they suddenly need busing, are eligible, but now have to wait weeks to be routed. We find it more beneficial to route eligible students, and they ride when as needed.”

Board president Karen Schofield of the Cuyahoga Falls City Schools said the district does not bus its high school students. 

“Busing grades nine through 12 is not required by law,” Schofield said. “What is required is providing a shuttle to transport high school kids to vocational programs, and we do that with our kids attending programs in the Six District Compact.”

Cuyahoga Falls Superintendent Todd Nichols said the district does provide busing for high school students with an IEP that specifies it is needed.

“We will consider busing students in grades nine through 12 if we are successful in November, but that would not commence until the building is complete, probably four years after passage,” Nichols said.

Woodridge Superintendent Walter Davis said that all “all of our resident students are eligible for bus transportation, regardless of where they live.” The district does not provide busing for open enrollment students, he added.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, ahelms@recordpub.com, or @AprilKHelms_RPC