School board votes on busing
More Clintonville families seek to open enroll
By Bert Lehman
Students from two families living in the Clintonville School District but open enrolling to Shiocton schools will be allowed to be picked up by Shiocton buses.
Other families wanting the same accommodations must take their request to the Clintonville School Board for review.
The Clintonville School Board approved that decision by a 4-2 vote at its June 13 meeting.
Board members Glen Drew Lundt and Chad Dobbe voted no, while Board President Ben Huber was excused from the meeting.
The two families the board approved for busing originally made their requests in 2014 and 2019, and those requests were approved at those times.
During public comments, four district residents asked the board to allow Shiocton buses to enter the Clintonville School District to pick up students.
During board discussion, Lundt asked if Clintonville buses pick up students from other districts who open enroll into the Clintonville School District.
Superintendent Troy Kuhn said he has been in contact with superintendents from New London, Marion and Shawano school districts.
“What we do with those cases is the student has to go to a point of pickup within our district,” Kuhn said. “There’s some goofy spots on the southern end of our zone where New London has an island within Clintonville. I wasn’t there when they made these zones, so does a New London School District bus go into Clintonville to pick up a student? Yes, but they’re in the New London island in the middle of the Clintonville district.”
Board member Laurie Vollrath asked whether Clintonville picks up students at their houses in other school districts.
“No, we’re not going to their houses,” Kuhn said.
Kuhn said he feels the board has three options.
The first option would be to allow all open enrolling students out of the district to be picked up by other school district buses at the homes of the students.
The second option would be to grandfather the two families that were allowed to be picked up at their houses in 2014 and 2019.
The third option would be to deny other districts the right to pick up students within the Clintonville School District for all students open enrolling out of the district.
“Just a reminder that state statute is that they have to get permission from us, we have to agree to allow a bus to go into our district to pick them up and transport them out,” Kuhn said.
Board member Kris Strauman said when the board discussed this issue last September, it was determined that if the district allowed buses from other districts into Clintonville to pick up all students open enrolling out of the district, it would “open up a can of worms.”
Strauman said the two families from 2014 and 2019 who followed the proper steps should be grandfathered in and buses from other districts should be allowed to enter the Clintonville district to pick up those students.
“To pull it from them now, I think would be a slap in the face,” Strauman said.
Kuhn acknowledged that last year there was miscommunication as to what the process was to request allowing a bus from another district to enter the Clintonville district.
“If a bus is driving by my house too, and picking up my neighbor, why can’t I get on that bus,” Kuhn said. “Those are the questions that were raised.”
Strauman pointed out the district is not stopping any student from open enrolling out of the Clintonville School District.
“But when you open enroll out, you gotta take into consideration the transportation,” Strauman said. “So, looking at this map, if you know that they’re stopping at the other two (houses), bring your kids to the other house. Bring them to the border.”
Lundt said the students have already decided to open enroll out of the Clintonville district, so that aid money is already gone, and the Shiocton School District is willing to pick up the students.
“Why do we want to stiff-arm anybody and say, ‘No, it’s fine for your neighbor but not for you,’” Lundt said. “There’s so many struggles and if it can help people out, why don’t we try to be nice and do the right thing.”
Dobbe said the important thing is that the board follow district policy moving forward.
“I do think we need some sort of criteria as to why we say yah or nay,” Dobbe said.
Kuhn said he feels all the families involved will have their children attend the Shiocton School District no matter what the board decides about busing.
He asked the board to think about families in the Clintonville district who are thinking about having their children open enroll into a neighboring district, and thinking all they have to do is show up at a board meeting to receive permission to be picked up by another district’s bus.
Strauman asked what would happen if the board approved the Shiocton busing for all the current families, and then more families along the border make the same request.
“I guarantee that will happen,” Kuhn said.
“I just think you’re going to set a precedent,” Strauman said. “We’re surrounded by four different districts. There’s a reason why there is policy and law.”
“I don’t love this policy because it’s not clean,” Dobbe said. “This whole motion has a lot of gray area still. I think we should make a clean cut, yes or no, for everyone.”
Prior to the vote, Lundt said this might be a sign of bigger issues in the district.
“If people are feeling the need to find other education somewhere else, maybe we need to look at why they’re not feeling like Clintonville is a good option,” Lundt said. “If the bus already comes to them, and they’re willing to go through all this, what has happened or what isn’t happening. And we need to address that because you can only stiff-arm people so long.”
At its June 27 meeting, parents asked the school board to approve an out-of-district bus to transport their students to the Shiocton School District.
Sara Bergsbaken said she made the decision to open enroll her children into the Shiocton School District for the 2020-21 school year because of COVID and the fact her residence has poor internet service.
“Which made it nearly impossible to have anything other than in-person learning,” Bergsbaken said.
Shesaid a Shiocton school bus has been going past her house to transport another family’s child for the last four years. She said she contacted the Shiocton School District directly to have her children added to that school bus route, which the Shiocton district did.
“I was unaware of any preapproval process, when I received a letter from Clintonville that busing was going to stop for us for the 2021-2022 school year,” she said.
After receiving the letter, she attended a Clintonville School Board meeting and the busing was approved.
She added that Shiocton was a good fit for her children, so it wouldn’t be in her children’s best interest to return to the Clintonville School District.
“We will need busing for several years to come, so please consider the circumstances we were in and that my choice was based for what’s best for our family,” Bergsbaken said.
Kelly Radtke said that she has two special needs children who did not do well when they attended Clintonville schools.
“I chose to take them out and put them in Shiocton, a smaller school,” Radtke said. “They needed more individualized help, and that’s why we left.”
She said her three older children did attend the Clintonville School District.
Radtke said a bus from the Shiocton School District used to drive past her house, but now it travels only a mile from her house. She said for the past two years she has driven her children to school in Shiocton and is requesting that Shiocton be allowed to pick up her children at her house.
“They said they would do it, but they need your permission,” Radtke said.
Langenhorst read a letter on behalf of Jeremy and Amber Young, who could not be present at the meeting. The letter said the Young’s three children rely on the school buses for safe transportation.
When the Young family open enrolled their children into the Shiocton School District last year, they inquired about the process to request busing. The Shiocton superintendent contacted the Kuhn, informing him Shiocton school buses would come into the Clintonville School District to pick up children.
“I often wonder if we had not brought this topic, would your board even had learned that the bus was coming into our district,” the letter said.
The letter noted that the Young’s home is within 500 feet of the district border, and through the years, buses from the Shiocton, Clintonville and New London school districts have passed by their house.
Langenhorst, who is the father of Amber Young, also spoke on behalf of himself. He told the board that he appreciated the district allowing his grandkids to be picked up by Shiocton buses last school year.
He said he was at the June 13 meeting when two Clintonville families were grandfathered, and Shiocton buses will be allowed to pick up those school children in the Clintonville district.
“I had hard feelings about that,” Langenhorst said. “Why those two families would be grandfathered and the other families weren’t. You know, I don’t feel it was fair, but that was the decision you made as a board.”
He asked the board members that they have an open mind when they make the decision about busing for the other families who made the busing request.
“If you vote that these families lose the busing, it’s not going to bring them back to Clintonville,” Langenhorst said. “They left for a reason. The one thing you have to look at, is, why did these families leave?”
He added, “I think that’s the heart of the real issue. Why are families leaving? Why are families coming to Clintonville?”