The Emmetsburg school board left their regular monthly meeting on Wednesday with multiple agenda items on their to-do list. Potential new bus stops and the use of open gym space by community members brought up a lot of discussion.
Daycare provider, Stephanie Mehan, and several parents were in attendance to address the possibility of adding a bus stop near the south end of town where many new homes and families are located.
"I have called to ask about getting a bus stop either at my house or near my house as I do daycare," said Mehan. "I would have four kids that need dropped off after school or picked up during 2-hour late starts. I know that there are other neighbors in the community down by our new development near 25th street that would also like their children to be able to ride the bus and not have to walk all the way home from the Catholic school. It would be about 10-15 kids that could potentially ride the school bus if there was a stop created down in that neighborhood."
Mehan was originally told the stop could be approved because it was a rural bus stop. However, a rural stop requires a kindergartner through 12th grader to be picked up and her own child was only going to be in pre-school. Transportation within the city limits is limited to registered/licensed daycare providers.
"We've discussed reevaluating all of our bus stops because we haven't really done so in the last year and a half," said board president B.J. Schany. "We do have a committee for this. What we're going to do is get the parents and bus drivers involved and reevaluate if we need a new stop down in that area. I don't see any reason why we can't look into that."
"We looked at all the rural stops a year ago and reduced it from six to five," said superintendent John Joynt. "The issue is time. Rural kids can only ride for one hour and some of those rides are about an hour now. In town, we look for safety and convenience. We've been dealing with bus stop issues and probably always will."
Board suggestions included speaking with bus drivers for their input and sending out parental surveys to see where large numbers of students live throughout town.
The transportation committee agreed to meet to work out any issues and come up with a solution in the next few weeks.
Also on the board's list of projects is the use of open gyms for additional practice by athletes.
"We've talked to several board members about doing something differently in our middle school gym," said Joynt. "We've installed more cameras anticipating we're going to have more activities in there. We've looked at electronic doors where we can track who comes in but that's in the thousands of dollars so we've backed off on that for now. After the vote to stay in the Lakes conference, we wanted to step up the opportunity for kids to get into the gym. The administrators anticipate being able to set up a schedule so if you are comfortable with allowing a parent to be responsible and have a key, we can make that happen."
Board member, Tammy Naig gave an example of where a student recently wanted to put a volleyball net up to practice hitting. "If I'd have had a key and had the responsibility forms filled out and if I knew that there was nobody in there on a Saturday afternoon, then I could come jump in the gym for a half hour?" asked Naig.
Impromptu gym use would be feasible as long as the proposed public gym calendar was open and a parent signed up for that open spot before entering.
"I think if you are comfortable with this type of system than you also have to be comfortable with things getting damaged," said Principal Joe Carter. "That's going to happen."
Participants would have to sign off for responsibility of the individuals using the gym. Only one door would be allowed for entry. Blocking off hallways and locking doors was discussed as a way to prevent abuse of the privilege.
"So if something does get busted, we can go back and say these were the people who were in there that day," said board member Scott Kibbie.
"We try it for six months or three months and if it gets abused and it doesn't operate the way we intend it to, then we renege and take it away," said Naig.
Several items will need to be worked out before implementing open gym use at the middle school such as a gym calendar, waivers, responsibility sheets, door keys and suggested rules.