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Schools plan to beat construction

"The school bus hits the road Sept. 5, and the school district hopes students will be on board.Administrators say that increased bus ridership will lessen traffic tie-ups due to roundabout construction.We're encouraging everyone to ride to diminish traffic congestion and enhance students safety, deputy superintendent Ken Crawford said.Construction will begin between Sept. 10 and Oct. 1, according to city officials. The intersection of High School Road and Madison Avenue is slated to be closed to traffic for 21 days - but may be closed for longer, if inclement weather delays building. The high school improvement project that inlcudes the roundabout will also disrupt traffic while the city completes bike lanes, sidewalks and road resurfacing.Alternate parking and bus routes have been planned by the schools, including re-opening the fire lane to Ray Williamson Pool.The district hopes to see the city activate the flashing amber light at Madison and Highway 305 to help regulate traffic. Parents who continue to drive their children must drop both Commodore and high school students at Ordway.The Commodore students will be escorted to and from class by two staff hired by the district.The district has budgeted $25,000 for the longer bus routes and extra employees. The city has agreed to pay for a crossing guard, but whether that person will be a city or a school employee has not yet been decided. It's important that students who plan to be regular bus riders get on board early, Crawford says, because the head count for the state that determines funding is done early in the school year. This year, the count, which had been done on five consecutive days in September or October, will now be done over a three-week period beginning in late September, according to new transportation manager Cami Dombkowski. The five days with the highest ridership will be turned in to the state as the district count. The option to do the count over several weeks is one that the state has routinely offered, but that the district has not pursued until this year.Labor costs that increased 4 percent and fuel costs that rose 20 percent over 2000-2001 contributed to district transportation costs exceeding revenue. That the district is losing money on bus service makes the head count critical, according to Crawford and other district officials. Our transportation department loses money, board member Bruce Weiland said, and that takes dollars away from the classroom. Student safety is also at issue, according to Weiland, who cites statistics that support the notion that riding the bus is far safer than driving, for students. "

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