TWIN FALLS — In less than two weeks, Twin Falls children will head back to school bus stops.
Twin Falls school trustees voted Monday night to approve school bus and safety bus routes. Trustee Mary Barron was absent from the meeting.
To help with creating bus routes, the district used new computer software, Versatrans, which it bought this spring. And officials pushed to find efficient ways to transport thousands of students to and from school.
“On a handful of routes, I’ve been able to shave off 10 minutes of student ride time in some areas,” said school district technology coach TJ Adams, who took the lead on mapping routes.
Twin Falls parents: If you want your child to ride a school bus this year, it’s not too late to sign up. You can still register either on the school district’s website or at school registrations.
The district is still receiving about 20 requests per day for busing, Adams told school trustees.
The school district contracts with Mid Columbia Bus Co. to provide school busing.
It can cause confusion on the first school day if children show up to get on a school bus and they’re not registered, Superintendent Brady Dickinson said.
Over the years, the Twin Falls School District has seen evolving technology for mapping out bus routes — from string and a cork board to Google Maps.
Now, with the new computer software, “it’s been a big help in a lot of areas,” Adams said. “It’s been a challenge in some areas.”
So far for the upcoming school year, which starts Aug. 17, the school district is receiving fewer busing requests than last school year, Adams said, but more from Pillar Falls and Rock Creek elementary schools.
The district has contacted parents three times this summer with information about signing up for school busing and Mid Columbia representatives have been at school registrations.
In January 2015, the school board sent a list of grievances to the bus company, including late routes, lack of communication with parents and drivers not dealing with problems on their buses.
But by the next school year, the situation had improved.
During their meeting, trustees also:
Approved a lawsuit settlement over the now-void Idaho Education Network.
U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled in late 2014, and again in February 2015, that the state’s $60 million contract to provide school broadband services was illegal because the Department of Administration cut Syringa Networks out in favor of CenturyLink and Education Networks of America.
Twin Falls School District was named in a lawsuit with dozens of other school districts around the state by Education Networks of America, which was seeking $18.5 million.
Under the settlement, the school district won’t owe any money, Dickinson said. He said he believes it’s the best that can happen at this point.
“This thing has been going on for how many years?” board chairman Bernie Jansen asked.
A couple, Dickinson responded, adding the vendor’s dispute was really with the state, but individual school districts were named in the lawsuit.
Here in south-central Idaho, affected school districts included the Twin Falls, Camas County, Castleford and Jerome school districts, and the Gooding-based Idaho Educational Services for the Deaf and the Blind.
Heard a facilities update report.
The school district has received the certificate of occupancy for South Hills Middle School, operations director Ryan Bowman said.
For the Magic Valley High School remodeling project, new classrooms are on track to be completed by the first day of school.
“There have been a few things that have delayed us,” Bowman said, and new bathrooms won’t be done until likely the second week of school.
If the restroom situation is a concern, “we may have to bring temporary toilets on site,” Dickinson said. “I’d really prefer not to do that.”
But he said he thinks there are sufficient restrooms on campus and the district is consulting with the city for direction.
Work at Magic Valley High also includes a cafeteria expansion. The kitchen in the building isn’t fully functional yet and that project is slated for completion in mid-September.
Approved job descriptions for head warehouseman and accounting supervisor.
Recognized employees of the month from Harrison Elementary School: kindergarten teacher Chelcy Rodriguez and computer lab assistant Christie Sorensen.
Heard a report about the schedule for homecoming weeks: Sept. 5-8 for Canyon Ridge High School with a tailgate party at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 8 and Sept. 25-29 for Twin Falls High School with a parade at 4 p.m. Sept. 29.
Heard information about the opening day ceremony Aug. 14 for school district employees, featuring speaker John Draper, and a new teacher orientation Wednesday.
The district will have 91 new certified employees once a few remaining job positions are filled, Dickinson said.