Southern Wells bus establishes stop in Warren

Warren-area students who attend Southern Wells Community Schools will have a new, safer bus stop this fall.

In response to a request from Southern Wells Superintendent Steve Darnell, the Warren Town Council on Monday, April 17, approved the use of Tower Park as astop for the SWCS bus.

The bus stop is currently located at the intersection of Ind.-3 and Ind.-218, Darnell said.

“That’s not a safe place to be,” Darnell said.

The corporation surveyed Warren-area parents and found that an “overwhelming” number would use an in-town bus stop, Darnell said. He said the corporation targeted Tower Park because it didn’t want to use privately-owned property.

The bus would pick up students at Tower Park before school and return them there after school, Darnell said. The eight-mile bus trip to the school near Poneto takes about 10 minutes, Darnell said.

About 50 Huntington County families, with a total of about 100 students, send their children to Southern Wells, Darnell said. That number has increased steadily since 2008, when state law changed to allow students tuition-free transfer to another district.

“Geographically, we’re kind of in a region here,” Darnell said, allowing Southern Wells to draw students from Warren, Montpelier and Jay County. A school in Pennville is being closed, and Southern Wells plans to begin bus service to that community, Darnell said.

The district operates two schools, Southern Wells Elementary School and Southern  Wells Junior/Senior High School, both near Poneto. The total enrollment is about 840 students, Darnell said, with about 30 percent of those students coming from outside Southern Wells district boundaries.

“We’re not out seeking and soliciting students,” Darnell said, adding that running buses outside the district boundaries is merely a “service to parents.”

Council members approved the plan to  use Tower Park as a Southern Wells bus stop despite some misgivings about its possible effect on the Huntington County Community School Corporation’s discussions about closing a school in Huntington County.

“If more go, would it affect the closing decisions?” Councilman Ethan Stivers said.

Warren is served by Salamonie Elementary School, and council members want that facility to remain open.

“It would be very detrimental to Warren if we lost the school,” Councilman Tracey Brown said.

In other business:
• Clerk-Treasurer Marilyn Morrison announced that spring cleanup will be held May 1 through 6.

• Morrison announced that Warren residents will soon be able to pay utility bills online. However, those using the online pay service will be charged a fee of up to 3 percent of the bill.