The Sauk Prairie School District will seek state funding for transportation costs associated with several bus routes in Sauk City, Merrimac and Prairie du Sac.
The Sauk Prairie School District Board voted unanimously to approve the funding request, which could bring in more money for the district’s transportation fund. According to Sauk Prairie School District Business Services Director Luke Francois, the state provides school districts with funding to help offset a district’s transportation budget for any student who lives more than two miles from their school. As a provision of the state statute, the state will also provide aid for students who have been deemed to live in an area less than two miles from school if the student’s route encounters an unusual hazard when walking to or from school, such as a bridge, over railroad tracks or highway, for example.
The district – in conjunction with the Sauk County Sheriff’s Department – has determined several areas where such hazards exist for students. In the district’s proposal to the school board, all areas south of Prairie Street, County Road PF, west of Lueders Road/13th Street, east of Highway 12, and north of Sauk Prairie Road. The Westwynde subdivision in Prairie du Sac was one area specifically identified.
The district stated students in grades kindergarten through 12 are required to walk near the edge of the traveled portion of highways and roads on loose gravel, in the ditch, or on the ditch bank in close proximity to vehicles, which creates an unusual hazard for those students.
Francois said the area was identified shortly after the Westwynde subdivision was put in, and was later determined students in that subdivision do not have a walkable solution to avoid those hazards. “This was determined prior to my arrival,” Francois said. “Because that area is within two miles of their school, we weren’t required to provide transportation but we have been because we aren’t going to put kids at risk.”
Francois said it wasn’t until October of 2018 a colleague recommended the district go through the process of applying for state aid to offset the cost of the district’s transportation for those affected students.
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“We met with the sheriff’s department and walked the area and he agreed it was an area they would deem hazardous, because we wouldn’t want kids walking down County Highway PF,” Francois said.
The process started with administration bringing the matter up with the Finance Committee, which then recommended the matter be sent to the board for review and possible action. The school board unanimously voted to approve the request, and now the district will go through the process of applying for state aid with the support of the Sauk County Sheriff’s Department.
“So we are now writing a letter together to apply for state aid,” Francois said. “We hope they rule favorably.”
Francois said because the district works with a per-route cost – and state aid works with a per-student, per-mile funding formula, it is difficult to know how much money the district could receive if the request for aid is approved.
“The state looks at the amount of miles a student travels,” Francois said. “These stops we are hoping to get funding for are one-to-two stops out of a larger route. And funding is different for each school district based on its average length and number of routes, so aid is awarded disproportionately. But even though we don’t know how much aid we could get, we know any additional funding will help. We want to be as fiscally responsible as we can.”