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Chippewa Valley Opts Not to Restore Busing to St. Thecla, St. Luke Students

By taking no action on the issue, the board of education decided Monday that it would not grant the request of St. Thecla parents to restore the bus service it once provided.

Chippewa Valley Schools' board of education has opted not to act on a request from parents of St. Thecla Catholic School to restore bus service the district previously provided.

While Chippewa Valley did provide bus service for children residing in the district but attending St. Thecla Catholic and St. Luke Lutheran schools for more than 40 years – despite both schools lying beyond the district's boundaries – Chippewa eliminated this service two years ago due to financial contraints. A number of other routes throughout the district were also cut at this time.

Two months ago, a group of St. Thecla parents requested the district restore this service and went on to cite a 1966 voter mandate, which they argued compelled the district to provide bus service. They informed the district that if busing was not restored, they would take legal action.

Board President George Sobah finally addressed the issue Monday, but the outcome was not the one for which St. Thecla parents had hoped.

Sobah said that in discussing the issue with the district's attorney, the 1966 mandate appears to be only advisory in nature and thus the district is not in violation of any law by not providing transportation to students residing in the district but attending parochial school beyond the district's boundaries.

While Michigan law requires school districts to transport, or pay for the transportation of resident students to non-public schools within the district’s boundaries, there is no stipulation to transport resident students to non-public schools outside the district’s boundaries, as in the case of St. Thecla and St. Luke.

The decision to cut transportation to St. Thecla and St. Luke was made before the start of the 2010-11 school year as part of an overall budget reduction plan to help with a significant operating fund deficit, Sobah said, adding that at the same time the service to St. Thecla was discontinued, transportation for more than 1,300 district students was also reduced. 

Throughout these discussions, the board has maintained that these cuts were necessary to keep the district's financial resources focused on programs to support the education of Chippewa Valley students.

By opting not to place this issue on a future agenda, the board decided to take no further action on this issue.

Diane Zontini, a member of St. Thecla parent committee, said the group will continue to explore its legal options.

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