Winona’s newest bus company is also a charter school.
Riverway Learning Community took delivery of a brand-new, bright orange 77-passenger school bus last week, becoming the first charter school to take over its own transportation services from the Winona public school district.
The bus was acquired using a lease-purchase agreement from Hoglund Bus and Truck, Monticello, Minn., for about $70,000, said Riverway director Laurie Krause.
The bus will be paid for using the school’s state transportation aid.
Krause said that taking charge of its student transportation allowed Riverway to “create a school calendar more conducive to our learning here at Riverway.”
Public school districts are required to provide transportation to all eligible students living in the district, even students who attend charter schools. However, the district has the authority to determine routes, pick-up and drop-off times and which days the buses will run.
The new bus allows Riverway to depart from the district calendar in three significant ways:
-- Riverway students will start school earlier in the year — Aug. 30 this year. The change gives students more days in class before the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment tests are administered in the spring. “This should help increase our average score,” Krause said.
-- The Riverway school day will become an hour longer, beginning at 8:15 a.m. and dismissing at 3:15 p.m.
-- The school year will also be restructured. “We want to maximize the number of five-day weeks,” Krause said. To that end, trimesters will be 12 weeks, followed by a week off for students. Staff will use that time for workshops and planning.
Krause said Riverway will hire its own bus driver, who will be part of the staff.
The school is mapping routes for the new bus service, as well as for vans that will pick up students eligible for transportation but not living on a practical bus route.