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St. Nicholas Academy finalizes busing issue

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Friday, August 20, 2010

By David Eck

ST. ANDREW DEANERY — Principal Gerry Myers knew there would be issues in moving St. Nicholas Academy to a new campus, but he didn’t expect that arranging for busing would be so complicated.

For about a year, academy officials worked with the Norwood, Cincinnati and Deer Park public school districts to reach an agreement, which was finalized in early August, to transport St. Nicholas students to the school’s new campus in Reading. The academy has moved from its home at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Deer Park to the former Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School beginning with the 2010-11 school year. The academy draws students from the three public school districts as well as from Reading and other communities.

Busing was never an issue before because the students either walked to St. Nicholas or were dropped off by parents, Myers said. That all changed with the move.

The Norwood and Deer Park districts initially turned down St. Nicholas parents’ requests for busing because their own students walk to their public schools. School districts are required to transport all elementary students if they live more than two miles and within a 30-minute drive from their school. In cases where districts deem it impractical to bus those students, they offer parents cash payment in lieu of bus service.

Working with the districts and archdiocesan and state officials, an agreement was reached in which two Cincinnati Public-contracted buses will pick up St. Nicholas students in that district and make stops at Holy Trinity Parish in Norwood and St. John Parish in Deer Park before going St. Nicholas Academy, Myers explained. The agreement, which was reached Aug. 9, won’t have an impact on the academy’s 8 a.m. starting time.

“We wanted bus service for our kids,” Myers said. “It was so important to keep fighting. In the past we have asked for service; were always turned down and we just rolled over. This time we had to do it not only for our kids, but for the future.”

Arranging transportation was important to the school’s success, because as many as 40 students would have had to leave St. Nicholas without it, Myers said. They would have enrolled in the public schools. Nearly 135 St. Nicholas families signed up for the bus service.

“There were kids that were going to be unable to come, which affects our enrollment. It affects everything,” Myers said. “That would have really hit us badly.”

St. Nicholas Academy is an inter-parish school sponsored by Holy Trinity, St. John and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart parishes. It opened in 2007 in the former St. John School building.

The era of neighborhood Catholic schools is waning, and the busing situation will become more prevalent as schools transition to inter-parish schools, form new private schools, consolidate or take some other action. That’s one of the reasons St. Nicholas officials were adamant about getting their situation resolved.

“What we tried to emphasize to the districts and the archdiocese was this is going to be a very important issue for our Catholic schools,” said Brian Perry, a St. Nicholas board member who has two daughters attending the academy. “There are going to be more and more of these situations coming up. It’s not like the old days where you can have your kids walk to school.”

Under state statute parents have to request bus service. There were 52 families in the Norwood district, 54 in Cincinnati Public and 28 in Deer Park, that requested transportation to St. Nicholas, Perry said.

“With us moving we knew that transportation was going to be important to keep all of our school families with us. For a lot of families where both parents were going to be working, being able to drop the kids off at one of the parishes would be an option that would make things much easier,” Perry said. “Ultimately everyone did cooperate. It had a good outcome for us.”

David Eck can be reached at deck@catholiccincinnati.org.

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