North Alta bus stop added
Despite a decision by the Wyoming Department of Education not to provide reimbursement for interstate bus service, the Teton County School District 1 board of trustees decided last week to continue providing busing for Alta students who attend Teton Middle and Teton High in Teton County, Idaho.
Once they graduate from Alta Elementary, students in the isolated Wyoming enclave can choose to attend public or private school in Jackson or public school in Driggs. Wyoming reimburses Teton County School District 401 for each out-of-state student that attends secondary school in Idaho, which in the 2019-20 school year totaled 29 kids. TCSD1 has provided bus service to those kids for decades. There are 16 Alta students total who are served by the bus route to Driggs, with an average daily ridership of eight to ten students. Some home-schooled Alta students use the bus to attend electives in Driggs.
The approximate cost for the interstate bus service in the past year was $9,543. Two weeks ago the state education department informed the district that it would no longer foot that bill, which led the district to consider eliminating the service.
The district notified some Alta families of the proposal only days before the May 13 school board meeting, and parents responded to the news with shock and dismay. Fourteen families signed a letter to the school board saying the decision to reduce services for Alta students was discriminatory and contradictory to the district’s responsibility to provide equal access to education. The letter also mentioned the board’s decision to eliminate sixth grade at Alta Elementary last spring, as well as a proposed cut to school lunch there, which hasn’t been approved.
Upon receiving significant pushback from the Alta community, the district staff, including assistant supervisor of operations Jeff Daugherty, recommended to the school board that TCSD1 bear the cost of Idaho bus service in 2020-21 and continue to work with the state on the reimbursement issue.
“I used to live over there and on the one hand, this was a great opportunity to reconnect with my old Alta friends and neighbors, but we really got a firm understanding of the impact this decision would have on them,” Daugherty told the board on May 13.
The board members agreed that Alta should continue to receive that service, and that families should receive more notice of big decisions in the future.
“We’ve been doing it for years, and we’re in a better position to do it than Driggs,” said trustee Kate Mead about Idaho bus service. “Even if we have to take it out of our general fund, it’s important to Alta. For years and years they’ve sort of been the unwanted stepchildren of Teton County, Wyoming, and I hate to have them feel that way.”
“As long as those kids are sixth through twelfth grade students, they belong to us,” trustee Janine Teske agreed.
The board also approved adding a bus stop at Leigh Lane to serve the three families with Alta Elementary students who live north of South Leigh Creek.
Teton County, Wyoming, constructed a new bridge across the creek last fall, connecting North Alta to the rest of the Wyoming community. The families north of the creek had been receiving isolated pupil mileage reimbursement of 58 cents per mile because they lived two or more miles from an established bus route, but that reimbursement will end now that the driving distance between North Alta and AES has been cut nearly in half, thanks to the bridge.