Millard school board puts brakes on proposed free busing - Omaha.com
Published Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 1:00 am / Updated at 11:01 am
Millard school board puts brakes on proposed free busing

A proposal to provide free busing to middle-school students failed to get traction with Millard school board members Monday night.

But a proposal for a new college-credit program at Millard South High School got the go-ahead for further study.

The board discussed the proposals at its monthly committee meeting.

Currently, middle-school students pay $3 a day to ride the bus.

Ken Fossen, associate superintendent for general administration, proposed free busing as a way to assist with the district's transition to new attendance boundaries.

The change could encourage students to attend the schools in their newly assigned areas instead of opting to take advantage of grandfathering to attend their current schools, Fossen said. No transportation is provided for grandfathered students, he said.

In December, the school board approved new attendance boundaries effective for the 2014-15 school year.

The boundary changes come with a grandfather clause and a sibling rule, both intended to minimize disruptions to families while creating enough student movement to ease concerns about crowding at certain schools.

Fossen told board members the busing change could be phased in over six years, beginning with the middle schools most affected by the boundary changes: Andersen and Central. The program would cost $1.8 million over six years.

Several board members said they preferred to stay with the pay system for now.

Board member Dave Anderson said he didn't want to pull money from academic programs to spend on transportation.

Meanwhile, board members reacted favorably to the proposal to launch an “early college” program at Millard South.

Mark Feldhausen, associate superintendent for education services, said the program would allow students to earn an associate degree while simultaneously completing high school graduation requirements.

The program has the potential to make Millard South a “destination school,” both within the district and for open-enrollment students across the metro area, he said.

Students could obtain credit from Metropolitan Community College that would be transferable to the University of Nebraska at Omaha and University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Feldhausen said. Students would complete the necessary courses during their junior and senior years.

Students would make a commitment to attend Millard South on a full-time, permanent basis. Classes would be taught by Millard teachers with master's degrees plus 18 hours of study in their subject area.

Feldhausen got the board's approval to continue planning for the program. He said he hopes the Millard Public Schools Foundation will provide scholarships to cover Metro tuition costs.

If all goes well, the program would be in place for the 2015-16 school year, he said.

Board member Mike Kennedy said the program would save money for taxpayers and parents by accelerating students' college education.

“I've been pushing it for years,” Kennedy said. “I'm pumped.”

Contact the writer: Joe Dejka

joe.dejka@owh.com    |   402-444-1077

Joe's beat is education, focusing on pre-kindergarten through high school.

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