FROM THE ARCHIVES: The first school-owned bus

From the Archives | Sandy Main

Before school districts offered bus transportation, some students living in the country had difficulty getting a high school education. They attended their rural country school through eighth grade but if they wanted more education they had to be able to get to one of the 14 high schools in the county.

In the fall of 1936 the Montcalm County school commissioner, Herold C. Rader, reported in his column “Our County Schools” in the Greenville Independent that one district had purchased a bus to transport students from outlying areas.

“The Howard City community school is the first school in Montcalm county to own and operate a bus,” Rader wrote. “The first unit of the splendid new school building at Howard City is nearing completion and preparations are being made to take care of the educational needs of the surrounding community.

“The first bus has been purchased and is in use transporting high school pupils from the north half of Ensley township in Newaygo county to Howard City. A few high school pupils from districts in our own county have also made arrangement for transportation on this bus. The new bus has a pupil capacity of forty and brings to many young people the opportunity of securing a high school education who possibly could not have attended otherwise.

“We find a school bus operating in the Lakeview area transporting the students in from the territory north of Lakeview. This bus is privately owned and operated by charging a fee from each student transported.

“Some of our primary districts contracted with individuals to transport their high school students in to the nearest high school with automobiles.”

Rader goes on to give rural districts some pointers on financing pupil transportation.

“This year marks the beginning of the transporting of high school people in a considerable way and since we are entering into the business, it might be well to present a few possibilities under the present law. According to information received from the Department of Public Instruction and in conformity with Section 10 on Page 15, of the General School laws, it is possible for a primary district to vote the closing of one of more grades and transport this grade together with the high school and be reimbursed by the state for transportation expenditure to the extent of $40 per student. The reimbursing of the district will not be effected until two years later.

“Citing a special case where the above mentioned law is effective, we call attention to Butternut where the school board had contracted with an individual to transport high school pupils, approximately 12 in number, to Carson City high school. If the matter had been left at this stage the entire cost of transportation would be carried by the district; however, the school board called a special meeting of the voters and at this meeting decided to close the eighth grade. Only one pupil was in the eighth grade, but since the district voted to close this grade, the district will be reimbursed for the transportation expense, not only for the eighth grade pupil, but for the entire high school group.

“Unless there is some change in the present law it certainly appears logical to follow the procedure of the Butternut school. In every case however, to receive reimbursement from the state, the district must vote the full amount allocated by the County Tax Commission.

“We suggest that no district make all arrangements under this transportation program before consulting this office since there are many implications, and we want every school board and school patron to be fully informed before taking steps to close any grade in the primary district.”

A month later Rader reported: “The Little Whitefish Lake district is transporting high school pupils to Howard City. The Goolthrite, Bloomer Center and Mitchell districts in Bloomer township have closed their schools and are transporting their pupils to Carson City. Butternut, in the same township, is transporting the eighth grade, as well as high school pupils.”

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