Shuttle buses start; more changes ahead?

Dylan Trott
The new shuttle bus service provides an alternative way to get to school for students who park at the Brainerd building.

Last month, Libertyville High School implemented its first shuttle bus for seniors who park at the Brainerd parking lot. The bus picks up seniors at the intersection of Jackson and Douglas Avenues and comes at 7 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and 8:25 a.m. on Wednesdays.

Senior Yvonne Montano came up with the idea during her P.E. class: “I was just thinking about how in the winter, it sucks; it’s really cold and we have to walk 0.6 miles in the cold and we have no transportation, and it’s really dangerous.”

Montano took action, and over the course of a month, she made it a goal of hers to get a noticeable amount of signatures for her online petition. With more than 200 signatures and a list of contentions, she presented her argument to Principal Dr. Tom Koulentes in a meeting.

During the meeting, Montano originally argued that teachers should park at Brainerd instead of students because students are more susceptible to the cold. When that idea didn’t work, Montano and Dr. Koulentes came to an agreement that shuttle buses would be a better alternative.

Prior to any decisions, Dr. Koulentes had to work out the logistics. One major concern for Dr. Koulentes was that a lot of students walk to school, and he felt it wouldn’t be fair to have the shuttle bus solely at Brainerd; however, he justified his decision by taking into consideration the fact that this is the first year in the last decade or two that all seniors aren’t able to park on campus.

“The shuttle is not a perfect solution, but it might just be a little bit of help for some of our seniors,” he said.

Another concern was the additional expenses that could potentially accompany the shuttle buses. Dr. Koulentes worked with Diana Gratz, a secretary in the main office who helps to coordinate the buses, to find a solution: “What we did is we looked at the bus routes, and we had a bus that goes right by Brainerd anyway and so, all we did was ask that bus to stop and pick up any students at the stop,” Dr. Koulentes said. “So it doesn’t add a cost or anything. That’s why we could do it; it fit within our existing budget.”

In addition to the shuttle buses, Montano and Dr. Koulentes talked about the parking options for next school year. Montano expressed distaste for the current lottery system, however, Dr. Koulentes said that they couldn’t get rid of it but they could make it better.

Students, including those on the principal’s advisory board, brainstormed ideas to improve the parking situation for incoming seniors. Juniors should expect further parking information in April as well as a survey emailed to them sometime in February. One potential question on the survey is whether juniors want the lottery to be split up by semester. By splitting it up by semester, Dr. Koulentes said it guarantees everyone a parking pass for at least one of the semesters.

In addition, there have been discussions revolving around carpooling. “So, if you, as a senior, wanted to carpool with two other seniors, instead of you guys needing three passes, you would need one pass and that would open up two other spots,” said Dr. Koulentes.

If this were to happen, Dr. Koulentes said he would want to incentivize carpooling because these students would be helping the school as well as other students. Some of these incentives could potentially include a lower rate for parking, guaranteed parking on campus all year (each student would have guaranteed parking at least one semester), a parking spot that is close to the school instead of near the tennis courts, or students’ names being put in a monthly drawing for a gift certificate to a restaurant.

Dr. Koulentes emphasized that no decisions have been made yet; however, it’s all under investigation: “None of us are happy that we lost parking spots, but our school really does want to do everything creative we can do to try and make the best out of the bad situation, and maybe in that process, new ideas get developed.”

Additionally, Dr. Koulentes mentioned that, “If there are things happening in our school that our students are frustrated about, we want to always find ways to work together.” He feels that “every idea is a great idea until we find out it’s not.”

Even though no permanent decisions have been made, Dr. Koulentes encouraged students to take initiative and express their ideas, even if their concerns aren’t related to parking.