Parents of a handful of Lodi Unified School District students living 15 miles from their school say they may be forced to return to Mexico after trustees voted against adding two new bus stops.
Tuesday's decision is a fallout from last year's district move to consolidate bus stops to save money.
At the beginning of the school year, the transportation department eliminated dozens of bus stops, including those that provided service from a student's residence to his or her school.
Among those stops were two commonly known a "camp 14" and "camp 15" located just beyond Tower Park. Students who attend Larson Elementary, Lodi Middle and Lodi High schools live there.
The district consolidated many of the bus stops in the Delta area. Now, parents walk their students across Highway 12 and buses pick up roughly 30 students daily at Tower Park and Flag City to transport them to schools, including Larson.
If the district were to re-establish the former stops and a required turn-around four miles further west on Highway 12, it would cost close to $13,000 annually, according to Carlos Garcia, the district's transportation director.
Anna, whose last name was unavailable, returned to the board a second time Tuesday to plead for assistance in getting her children to school safely. "Please provide us a solution so our children can get an education," she said through a Spanish interpreter.
Earlier, the mother said her students might have to return to Mexico where they can get to school easier. Now, the family lives on the property where the adults work.
Trustee Bonnie Cassel, whose constituents in the Lockeford area have also lost a number of bus stops through the hub system, pointed out that the board went to the new consolidated stops instead of elimination.
She voted against the parents' request. "What I fear is that if we make one exception ... we'll be down a slippery slope," Cassel said.
On Tuesday, Garcia told trustees that if bus service was eliminated altogether, the district might be able to come to an agreement with county buses to pick up students. However, it would be at pre-designated stops already in place.
The system is used and paid for by Stockton Unified high school students after that district stopped serving them.
In the end, board president George Neely said he would love to send school buses to the camps, but is also worried that other parents will come forward requesting changes to the current system.
"The parents have touched me, but we just don't have the money," he said. "The alternative would be to stop all transportation, and I don't want to do that."
The school district, whose attendance area includes the Delta, encompasses 350 square miles and serves not only Lodi but also North Stockton, Acampo, Clements, Lockeford, Victor and Woodbridge due to decades of consolidation.
It was created in 1967 when voters approved the merger of 18 elementary districts and the union high school district. The boundary, established in 1922, followed that of the former Lodi Union High School District. Over the past 30 years, principally uninhabited territory was ceded to adjoining districts south of the Stockton Deep Water Channel, north of Jahant Road and south of Hammer Lane, according to the district Web site.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.