News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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June 16, 2013

Vigo School Corp. eliminating bus transportation for middle school sports teams

Parents will be primary mode of rides to games

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County School Corp. will no longer provide school bus transportation for middle school athletic events, starting with the 2013-14 school year.

Also, district officials are still debating whether the district will provide bus transportation to in-county athletic events at the high school level. It will continue to provide transportation for out-of-county high school athletic events, “but charter buses paid for by booster clubs are encouraged,” Superintendent Dan Tanoos said last week.

The reasons cited are the Affordable Care Act and the need to reduce bus driver hours, as well as the need to reduce overall transportation costs.

“We are cutting out all middle school athletic transportation,” Tanoos said.

Games will start later so students can go home after school and get a ride to the athletic event, he said.

For middle-school students whose parents/guardians can’t transport them to athletic events, “We’ll find a way to get them there,” Tanoos said. “We’ll find rides for them” as long as they have signed permission slips allowing others to transport them.

The district’s risk manager said that finding rides for students in this way would not increase the school district’s liability, Tanoos said.

The superintendent emphasized the district “will not deny participation” in athletics based on a student’s ability, or inability, to get to and return home from an event.

Also, middle schools that had already scheduled out-of-county athletic events for next year can go ahead, but no more out-of-county athletic events can be scheduled, Tanoos said. Again, the district will not provide transportation to competitions outside Vigo County.

At the end of the year, the district may decide to cut out all out-of-county athletic events at the middle school level, he said.

The Affordable Care Act, and some changes in interpretation made by the Internal Revenue Service, “have really been damaging to a lot of school activities,” Tanoos said.

He also outlined changes in student field trips. For elementary schools, each grade level will be limited to one field trip per school year, and those field trips will be corporation-sponsored. Visits to different sites can be combined in one day.

The only exception will be for fifth grade, which also will be allowed a year-end trip, but it must be academic in nature.

District officials have decided the field trips or types of field trips that will be allowed at each grade level:

n Kindergarten — Field trips to places such as a hospital, fire station or police station, where children would develop a better understanding of those services.

n Grade 1 — The Terre Haute Children’s Museum, a trip sponsored by the Vigo County Education Foundation, and the Vigo County Public Library.

n Grade 2 — Fowler Park for Pioneer Days, which in the past had been offered to fourth-graders. Organizers of Pioneer Days expressed some concerns about working with the younger children. “We want to try it this year and see how it works,” Tanoos said.

n Grade 3 — Vigo County Historical Museum, combined with a visit to a place such as the Vigo County Courthouse or a cemetery. “We think there is a lot of history in our cemeteries,” he said.

n Grade 4 — Terre Haute Symphony and nearby location such as Indiana State University, Vigo County Public Library, Vigo County Historical Museum or a downtown media outlet.

n Grade 5 — Conservation Days at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds and the Swope art museum.

Fifth-graders also will have an end-of-year academic trip, but anything out-of-county must be by charter bus.

The district will continue to provide bus transportation to the elementary and middle school Battle of the Books, and at the middle school level, “Let’s Get Real,” a financial literacy program.

At the high-school level, participating students will be transported to Human Rights Day at Indiana State University. Transportation for high-schoolers to attend some extra curricular contests will also occur. “We will still provide transportation for academic competitions and band competitions that are held within the state,” Tanoos said.

Transportation for those types of events at the middle-school level will be looked at on a case-by-case basis, he said.

Tanoos recognizes that while some are happy with the changes, some are not. District officials met many times related to discuss field trips. “It’s almost like trying to put a puzzle together and not all the pieces fit together perfectly,” he said. “There are going to be some places that are upset. … It’s unfortunate. That’s part of the tragedy of the law (Affordable Health Act).”

At the same time, he believes the district did need to “tighten up” with some of the trips, such as to amusement parks. One amusement park wrote a curriculum, “but in my opinion, I’m not sure how academic it was to go on a field trip to ride a roller coaster,” Tanoos said.

While the district has de 0cided its middle schools won’t participate with St. Patrick’s School in athletic competition next year, that’s something that can be re-evaluated in the future, he said.

All of the changes made for the upcoming year will be re-evaluated at the end of the school year, he said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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