NAMPA — The ongoing, emotional issue of transportation at New Horizons Elementary School turned in a circular direction Tuesday night at the Nampa School Board meeting, which was packed full of frustrated parents.
New Horizons, a dual-language magnet school founded in 2007, has struggled without busing since last year, when transportation to and from the school was cut. The move saved the district about $260,000 amid a financial crisis. The board voted later that year to task a committee made up of parents and administrators to find a financially feasible solution to the issue. In its comments, the administration contends the committee presented no plans or cost estimates, and on those grounds, the board kicked the issue back to a new committee, which will be formed by Superintendent David Peterson.
Jeffrey Lowe, who served on the transportation committee as a parent, said that’s not true.
“They misrepresented what we brought back from the committee,” Lowe said. “This committee was tasked to look at all options for transportation, and if we could reduce that amount, that was our goal and our task.”
Lowe says the committee did that by coming up with one plan that would have cost $90,000. Another plan that was discussed in April would have piggybacked on other bus routes at a “minimal cost,” though it’s not clear yet what that cost would be. Brown Bus Operations Manager Brent Carpenter said bus drivers need a few weeks of running routes before they could determine how to run those routes at low cost.
New Horizons operates under a model of ideal enrollment at 50 percent English-speaking students and 50 percent Spanish-speaking students. Two parents say that model has been eroded since the bus cuts took place. Lowe said by his calculations, the school was now 75 percent English-speaking students. He attributed most of that to busing.
“My wife and I have the financial ability to not utilize transportation,” Lowe said. “Many working class people do not have that opportunity.”
The discussion by trustees turned from transportation to whether the program is even working — a question primarily brought up by Trustee Joca Veloz. She suggested while there is plenty of anecdotal evidence about the program, she has yet to see any report about its effectiveness for students.
Valerie Cleverly, principal of New Horizons, said she has a wealth of research from her own dissertation comparing her students with peers within the district, and said New Horizons students outperformed others in English and science and were at the same level in reading and math.
Crystal Fuhriman, a parent and committee member as well as former PTA president for the school, said the committee shouldn’t have to have the entire burden of solving the issue. And they shouldn’t have the burden of proof for how well the magnet school model is functioning.
“If I was a parent at Ronald Reagan (Elementary), I’m not going to bring proof of how well my son is learning math and what it represents to the school district,” Fuhriman said.
The board directed Peterson to draft a report on transportation options by October, with associated costs included and perhaps examining the models of magnet schools in neighboring school districts, such as the schools in Meridian. The viability of the program will be examined at a later date.