Bus ruling may cause challenge in Red Mesa
by Anna Thayn
Mar 28, 2012 | 6616 views | 0 0 comments | 96 96 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As of March 26, students from southern San Juan County who attend school in Red Mesa, AZ may find themselves without a ride to school. School buses will no longer cross state lines, leaving approximately 152 out-of-state students without transportation.

Herman Farley, Red Mesa Chapter President, asked the San Juan school board on March 21 if an arrangement could be worked out between the Red Mesa and San Juan school districts. Farley is particularly concerned about high school seniors who are preparing to graduate in May.

The Red Mesa schools are just two miles from the Utah state line, said Minnie John, a member of the Red Mesa School Board. She added that students from Utah have attended Red Mesa schools for many years, and busing has not been a problem in the past. Approximately 30 percent of the Red Mesa students are from Utah.

Farley said Utah students may have chosen to attend the Red Mesa Schools because the Utah buses travel only down the highway for pickup while the Arizona buses pick students up at their homes.

Clayton Holt, business manager for the school district, said that the district will review bus routes and suggested that the Utah buses did not go down the county roads because the students have been attending school in Arizona.

Board member Merri Shumway added that Utah buses travel off the highway throughout the district, so it will not be a problem in the Red Mesa area.

Board Member Elsie Dee expressed concern about activity bus transportation, as well as the regular school day bus transportation. Superintendent Doug Wright said the district is initially concerned with academic issues and not so much with activity buses.

Wright said that an unwritten agreement in the past suggested that schools would not pay attention to where students near border areas live, but would allow them to choose their school. The San Juan School District has three schools within a few miles of a state line.

Wright said that the agreement was endangered when Red Mesa started to send buses into Utah to transport students to the Arizona schools.

Wright said the problem with such an agreement is an Arizona requirement that the home district of an out-of-state student is required to pay “reasonable tuition” for the student to attend Arizona schools. Wright said this is a problem since the school district does not generate funds for those students.

“We would be taking money that our students generate for their education and paying it to Red Mesa school district to educate students,” said Wright. “…So it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to enter into an intergovernmental agreement.”

Clayton Holt mentioned that the federal Impact Aid statute does not allow students from out-of-state to be claimed. He suggested that Red Mesa School District look into that issue, as they should not be receiving funding for students who live in Utah.

The board expressed concern about the issue and support for allowing students to finish the year at schools in Red Mesa. However, after the current school year, students will need to attend school in Utah, as the district will not bus them to Arizona or pay tuition.

Wright said it is in the best interest of the students to finish the year at Red Mesa, especially for the seniors.   Utah requires 24 credits to graduate while Arizona requires 20. Wright feared that seniors who transfer to Whitehorse may not be able to graduate.

The Board spoke with Red Mesa interim Superintendant Spencer Singer over the phone to express a preference that Utah students finish the year at Red Mesa. After the board meeting, transportation officials from the two districts met and created a plan for San Juan buses to pick up the students in Utah and transport them to the state line for the remainder of the school year.

However, after a subsequent community meeting in Red Mesa, the Red Mesa schools indicated they would not reimburse the costs of the San Juan buses.

In other business at the March 21 board meeting, the board received a report on the summer remodeling project at Monticello High School and the upcoming construction of a new Monticello Elementary School. A public meeting was held in Monticello on March 20, with about 70 people attending.

Brian Parker, of MHTN Architects, said that a key factor for the new school is cost containment and maintaining a place for students to attend school during construction. As a result, the new school may be shifted up to 150 feet to the west of the current school. This will allow for much of the current school to be used for instruction during the construction phase.

The existing gymnasium, which will not be demolished, will not be attached to the new school. Currently, a walkway is proposed from the school to the gym. This may change as the design develops, as there is community concern about the distance between the buildings. The new school has a budget of $10 million.

The new school will include a multi-use classroom that can be used for many purposes, including band practice and art instruction. The room is adjacent to the cafeteria with a partition wall that can be opened for performances. The majority of the school entrances are being placed to the south to address snow and ice concerns.

Parker said that MHTN and the school district is continuing to work on the site and the new building location, as well as the floor plan and exterior design of the building.

The new elementary school in Monument Valley received an award from the American Concrete Institute for excellence in concrete. The new school design utilized concrete to not only make the school durable, but inviting and beautiful.  

In other business, high school students will pay up to $43 less per year after changes were made to the district fee schedule. The changes eliminate an Ed Net fee, technology center fee, newspaper fee, locker fee and language arts fee.

Finally, the district announced that the local school lunch programs do not use the “pink slime” meat product that has been used by schools in other areas of the nation.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
The San Juan Record welcomes comments on our stories. Please be civil, respectful, focused and humane. Postings are not edited and are the responsibility of the author. You agree not to post comments that are abusive, threatening or obscene. Postings may be removed at the discretion of sjrnews.com