The New London Community School District will stop providing transportation to shared sports practices and games for the 2019-20 school year unless there are 15 or more participants, the school board voted on Monday, April 15.
Chad Wahls, superintendent with the New London Community School District (NLCSD), said that transportation for athletes to and from games and practices has been an “ongoing struggle.”
Monday was a prime example, Wahls said. They had a middle school track meet at Wapello, high school boys track at Central Lee and golf at Winfield-Mt. Union.
“We didn’t have enough bus drivers for that,” Wahls said.
The head golf coach and volunteer golf coach offered to drive two smaller vehicles that hold seven passengers each and another student road to the golf meet with a parent. Wahls said they were “fortunate” in that situation that a parent was willing to drive.
Jessica Boyer, business manager with the NLCSD, drives students to soccer practice in Mt. Pleasant every day because there is not a bus driver to do so.
“That’s a commitment to have to make for 50 to 60 days,” Wahls said.
The NLCSD has three full-time bus drivers to cover their three bus routes. They share a transportation director with the Danville School District.
“We want to continue to give opportunities to our kids, it’s just we are really struggling to provide certified drivers to be able to get our students and athletes where they need to be,” Wahls said.
NLCSD shares the following sports with Danville Community Schools: cross-country, middle school boys and girls soccer and high school boys soccer. They share high school girls soccer, dance and bowling with the Mt. Pleasant Community School District. There are 24 students enrolled in shared activities.
The conversation about whether or not the NLCSD would be able to continue offering transportation for shared sports began after a few students asked to be able to try out for the Mt. Pleasant Community High School (MPCHS) dance team. While they didn’t ask for transportation at the time, Wahls said if they did the school would have to find a way to provide it.
The administration held a meeting for parents to discuss transportation at 6 p.m. on Monday before the school board meeting, but no one showed up, Wahls said.
Wahls did receive a few emails about the issue, with most parents expressing their understanding that the district cannot provide transportation.
In one email, a parent wrote that they appreciated the transportation for their child to soccer games, but they are willing to make other arrangements if the school can no longer provide that option.
Another parent voiced concern that it would hinder the middle school soccer program. Wahls said it was hard to say if it will hinder it, considering there is currently only one boy and one girl participating.
“It’s not thriving. It has very low numbers,” Wahls said.
“One parent did stop in. They understood,” Wahls said. “They have two children in high school, and as much as they appreciate transportation, they understand.”
Jesse Howard, school board member, voiced concern that the decision puts more risk on students to drive themselves and others to these activities.
“If we need more bus drivers, then we need more bus drivers,” Howard said, eventually seconding school board member Skye Wellington’s motion to not provide transportation for shared sports.
Wahls said they will see how well it goes next year, and it’s something they can bring back to the board if it hurts the shared sports program.
Wahls would not disclose how much money the school district will save by eliminating transportation to practices and games.
“That’s never been a reason why,” Wahls said. “It has nothing to do with money. We’ve done (athletic transportation) the last number of years. It’s the number of drivers.”