Getting to and from school for a small group of local students and staff means hopping in a plane

Posted at 6:00 AM, Mar 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-02 07:08:51-05

For a select group of students and school staff in the area, getting to and from school doesn't mean hopping on a bus or getting in a car. Nor does it mean walking. They actually get in a six-seater, prop plane.

"Living here on the island, we're so used to flying," said Tom Chrysler, a senior at Put-in-Bay High School who takes daily vocational classes at EHOVE Career Center in Milan.

"I am the bus driver for the islands," said Dustin Shaffer, the plane's pilot.

Chrysler is one of seven Put-in-Bay students who fly to and from school. Some are residents of the Lake Erie island who commute to the Milan career center. Others are residents of North Bass and Middle Bass islands who fly to the Put-in-Bay school, which has a total of 81 students, pre-K through 12th grade. North and Middle Bass do not have schools of their own.

There are also six school staff members who commute to the island via plane.

"The plane always waits for me," laughed Jennifer Troiano-Breudigan as News 5 asked her if she ever misses her ride back to the "mainland," as she and others call it,  where she lives.

Troiano-Breudigan is Put-in-Bay's kindergarten teacher. She has a class of three this year.

"We have two airlines that service the islands," said Steve Poe, Put-in-Bay's superintendent. "As a school, we use both airlines."

Poe said the airlines also fly the school's basketball team, and the cheerleaders, to all away games. And the district even flies the visiting teams to the island for games.

The district pays all airfare, which Poe said is $90 per person round trip. The annual cost is less than one percent of the district's operating budget.

The flight time is six minutes.

"It started out, it was pretty cool," said Chrysler. "Now it's just another day, just the same routine."

"Pretty normal now," said Carter Pugh, a Put-in-Bay senior who, like Chrysler, takes vocational classes at EHOVE Career Center.

What's now normal for Pugh and Chrysler is that their backpacks get stored in the cargo compartment. Their seats are assigned.

"You have to do a weight and balance when you're flying," said Shaffer.

And there's the occasional frustration of sharing the runway.

"Birds, geese, coyotes, lots of traffic you have to watch out for," added Shaffer.

Weather can also cause complications. And in Put-in-Bay, it's often the pilots that determine whether school should be delayed or canceled.

"More times than not, they're calling me saying 'Steve we're delayed right now. We don't see the fog clearing for a couple of hours,'" said Poe.

"Island life is very unique," said Troiano-Breudigan, who added that she often brings fresh produce and treats like Panera Bread muffins over from the mainland for students and staff who live on the island.

But island life is what they cherish. It is deeply rooted in each and every one of them.

"It's the love of the people," added Troiano-Breudigan.

They take pride in a lifestyle that lacks a lot of convenience yet, is so full of unconventional experiences.

"It'll be a story for the kids," said Pugh.

In warmer weather months, when the ferries are running, Poe said many students and staff often use that mode of transportation which is a fraction of the cost of a plane ride.