October 27, 2011
Marathon tweaks Amish bus plan
MARATHON — The latest attempt to find a compromise for transporting about 60 Amish students in the Marathon school district hit another snag last night at the Board of Education meeting.
The board hoped that the community would provide input and feedback on the newest plan.
That plan was delayed, however, when the Amish did not show up at the meeting.
The majority of the Amish community was still traveling back from a funeral in Pennsylvania, according to several people who spoke during the meeting.
The district’s transportation director, Kathy Julian, revealed the newest proposed busing plan to the board and 30 district residents who attended the meeting.
The district has struggled with the issue since last May when the board decided it would not provide a separate bus route for Amish students. The district’s former superintendent, Tim Turcek, set up a separate route without board approval last year. It was the first time the district bused Amish students.
The Amish prefer their children do not spend time with other students. Amish parents and other community members have expressed concerns about the safety of children walking along local higways and possible bullying on school buses.
The latest plan would not provide a separate run for the Amish but it would keep Amish children from having to walk along highways or having to walk across them after getting off a bus, which was a key part of the plan, said Superintendent Rebecca Stone.
“We don’t let Marathon students cross those roads, so we shouldn’t have their students cross them either,” she said.
The plan would still require some of the Amish students to ride with Marathon students.
The plan was not a final one and it would likely change in the future, Julian told the board.
“I see this evolving as we go on,” she said.
Some of the Amish students who live in the eastern part of the district would be dropped off at Appleby Elementary before being picked up by another bus that would take them to their school. Most of the Amish students would be picked up in groups from farms close to their house and then taken to their school.
The Amish rejected a busing plan that was proposed earlier this month because it would have required some students to walk along busy Route 221 and their children would still have to ride with Marathon students.
The issue of timing was a sticking point for board member David Brandstadt. The Amish do not follow Daylight Savings Time, so their school day begins and ends at a different time for over half the school year.
“I don’t think we can really have a solution until we figure out the time problem,” said Brandstadt.
After Julian’s proposal, the board opened the floor to public comments. There was a range of responses on both sides.
One man, George Craig, accused the Amish of ignoring laws and getting away with it.
Craig alleged that some of the Amish do not get their children immunized before they attend school and that some Amish farmers who have bought land from him ignored zoning laws.
“They have no respect for the law, none,” he told the board.
Others were more sympathetic to the Amish and asked the board why a separate run could not be provided.
After being pressed on it several times, Stone replied that because the board was not legally required to provide a separate run, it had decided not to. Running a separate bus for the Amish cost the district $69,000 last year.
Brandstadt added that if the district did provide a separate run for the Amish, it might be forced to do it for parochial school students as well.
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