In the future, the district may look at picking up students who live between the south shore and the Dillingham City Limit sign, says Superintendent Piazza.
Now that the Wood River Bridge is complete, the Southwest Region School District is upgrading and re-assessing its transportation to and from the Aleknagik School.
For years, a boat driven by an Aleknagik School employee has ferried students across the Lake each morning and afternoon. Now the District will phase out the boat shuttle and begin providing bus service.
“The bus did arrive, I believe it was on the first barge of the season in here to Dillingham," says Superintendent David Piazza. "It’s parked somewhere up in Aleknagik awaiting bus inspections and things like that.”
The new school bus will take K-8 students from south shore to the north, and back. But Piazza says the extent of the route is yet to be determined.
The area between the south shore and the Dillingham City Limit sign has for years been a gray area between the Southwest and Dillingham School Districts. Because of the difficulty of commuting across the lake, families from south shore on down have been able to choose whether to send their kids to Aleknagik or Dillingham.
But the bridge could change that.
“You know, we now have access to pick those students up on the south shore and bring them over to the north shore school," says Piazza, "and so we’ve contracted with the City of Aleknagik to provide that bus transportation for those students.”
How far south the new bus might run will depend on costs.
Piazza says the proposed bussing contract with the City is for $52,000 dollars per school year. That’s up from the $17,900 per year the district had budgeted to run the boat service.
And as budgets continue to get leaner, the District is also considering the state funding it could gain from bringing in more students to the school.
According to the state Department of Education and Early Development, the amount of money the school gets per head is expected to be about $5,880 in FY 2016.
So – for instance – if the new bus could scoop up just 9 more students, that would make up the cost of the proposed bus contract. The district likely wouldn’t pursue that until next fall; the state does its school head counts in early October.
But all that number-crunching is still hypothetical. Superintendent Piazza says for now, the City is still working on getting the new schoolbus staffed and ready.
"We’ll still maintain the 'boat bus' transportation from south shore over to north shore until that bus route has been established fully," said Piazza.
The Aleknagik school currently has 28 students. Piazza says the Southwest Region School Board will consider issues of funding and district jurisdiction over the next year.
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