UNITY — Next fall, kindergartners through seniors in Regional School Unit 3 will ride buses together in an effort to save money.

Nine of the 10 directors present at Monday night’s meeting at Unity Elementary School voted to switch from the district’s double bus run schedule to a modified single run system.

Superintendent Heather Perry has projected that switching from the setup that transports middle and high school students separately from elementary students will annually save the sprawling 11-town district about $140,000.

Much of the savings would come as a result of reduced hours for bus drivers, as well as savings on fuel and bus maintenance.

Kathy Cunningham, director from Freedom, cast the lone dissenting vote.

“We say that it takes a village to raise a child and the bus drivers are the first step in that each day,” Cunningham said.

Other directors agreed, but said tough financial choices had to be made.

“Let’s give it a couple of years,” Knox Director Phil Shibles said.

“If we don’t try it we’ll never know,” he said, adding the district had considered the proposal off and on for a decade.

Thorndike Director Helen Sahadi said when she did a bus ride-along last week, the driver maneuvered miles along wretched roads to pick up or drop off one child during a high/middle school run, then did the same thing on the elementary school run.

“It seemed ludicrous to me,” she said. “I am not looking to balance the budget on the back of the bus drivers. I am trying to do what is best for 1,500 students.”

Sahadi also shared information from a Finance Committee meeting held earlier Monday night.

She said the committee was looking at trimming two elementary teaching positions, an instrumental music teaching post, an elementary principal and a host of other cuts to rein in the 2012-13 proposed budget.

Montville Director Christine LeGore said she thought it was valuable that a single bus run would result in 30 to 42 minutes of added instructional time each day for elementary students.

A full report of Monday’s meeting will appear in Wednesday’s Morning Sentinel.

Beth Staples — 861-9252
[email protected]

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