A group of parents from St. Thecla Catholic School is giving Chippewa Valley Schools exactly 10 days to address the issue of restoring bus service to their school before pursuing legal options.
For approximately 44 years, Chippewa Valley Schools provided bus service to St. Thecla Catholic and St. Luke Lutheran schools for children residing in the district – although both schools lie just beyond the district’s border. Two years ago, citing budget cuts, the district eliminated this service.
Approximately one month ago, a group of parents from St. Thecla urged the board to voluntarily restore this bus service.
“It’s a little disheartening to me that a month has lapsed and I haven’t heard from any of you,” said Simon Haddad, a Clinton Township resident and parent of five at St. Thecla. “I had hoped by now that I would have received some sort of interaction with this board relating to the situation about our children’s busing.”
Haddad presented members of the board of education Monday night with a letter from the group’s legal counsel as the “final notice” for the district to address this issue.
“(This letter provides a) 10-day notice to respond ... to enter into a dialogue with the forgotten taxpayers who are obligated to support you but receive nothing in return," Haddad said.
One of the group’s main arguments during the last month has been the property taxes they pay to support the school district knowing their children will not benefit from this funding.
“I’m going to make one final appeal to your decency, to your sense of caring for our kids,” Haddad said. “If you care for our kids like your literature says you do, like your brochure says you do, like your printed materials say you do when you want to renew a $90 million bond, speak up now. Speak up for our kids. Stand with our children. Restore the bus service promptly without further delay.”
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.
Superintendent Ron Roberts said the district’s attorney has been instructed to research this issue to ensure the district is not “doing anything illegal in withholding busing.”
But a key point for the district remains whether a circa-1966 voter mandate, which St. Thecla parents say compels the district to provide bus service, supersedes state law. If it doesn’t, the district is not legally compelled to provide bus service to St. Thecla or St. Luke students.
Withholding this bus service is akin to "treating our children as second-rate citizens," Haddad said, although the district community relations director Diane Blain has said in the past that St. Thecla and St. Luke students were not the only ones affected by the 2010 reduction in transportation.
When service to Clinton Township's parochial schools was eliminated in 2010, the district also discontinued noon-time kindergarten transportation and eliminated several bus routes in the 21 Mile Road and Heydenreich area.
At present, Chippewa Valley has more than 16,300 students of which 4,453 are considered “walkers” to school and do not receive transportation services to district buildings, Blain said.
The St. Thecla parents supporting this restoration of bus service are acting independently of school administration.