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Following outcry, Lodi Unified School District scraps plans for bus fees

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Posted: Friday, July 16, 2010 1:41 pm | Updated: 5:58 am, Mon Jul 19, 2010.

Parents will not have to pay for their children to take buses to Lodi school after all. The decision was made after only one pass had been purchased as of Friday morning, and that person will receive a full refund.

"I'm glad that they're rethinking it," said Lockeford mother of three Dawn Carvalho.

"I think they realized how much of a headache it was going to cause the transportation department. They must have looked into it a little further and realized they weren't going to get the money. It just didn't make sense."

She had already planned not to pay the fee and instead transport her daughter to Tokay High School and her two elementary children to Tokay Colony Elementary School herself.

Chief Business Official Doug Barge said Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer made the decision to forgo the pay-to-ride service after receiving input from his office, as well as board members and the public.

"Once she examined how much we had brought in, we're not far enough along to make a difference," Barge said of the fee.

However, the district is moving forward with the hub system by consolidating many of its rural stops instead of providing near door-to-door service.

The parent-pay issue will be revisited later this year and possibly enacted in the 2011-12 school year.

The district officially notified parents last week that they had until July 27 — the first day of school — to pony up $360 per child for bus service this year. Administrators hoped enough of the district's 6,600 daily bus riders would participate in the new pay-to-ride program to make a $2 million financial dent in the transportation budget.

But Nichols-Washer said savings have been realized through layoffs and other cuts in that department, as well as the implementation of the hub system. Parents were officially informed of the pass by a pre-recorded phone message late last week, but complained there wasn't enough notification time.

Many, like Carvalho, said instead of paying the fee, they would find a way to take their students to school themselves, causing concern for an increase in traffic during drop-off and pick-up times.

Mother Shanna Medeiros also planned not to pay for her son to ride.

"We are strong supporters and fundraisers for Lodi schools, but the services we receive through our tax dollars are quickly diminishing. For them to charge fees without fairly posting who or how much everyone will have to pay is just unfair," she said in an e-mail.

Under the program, those on freeand reduced-lunch would have been charged on a sliding scale.

"How can the federal government subsidize free and reduced breakfast and lunch when every other part of our system is failing?" Medeiros said.

Carlos Garcia, the district's transportation director, said earlier this week that he could not notify parents of the fee any sooner since the board of trustees did not adopt the district's budget until June 15.

In that budget, the transportation department suffered among the biggest hits and had to trim $2 million from its $6.5 million annual budget. In addition to the proposed transportation fee, it is streamlining routes by creating a hub system to save money on fuel.

In March, the school board discussed several ways to save money on transportation costs and gave direction to move forward with the pay-to-ride service, hub system and serving only those who live outside a specified walking distance radius. The changes were adopted when the board approved the budget last month.

Meanwhile, parents should be notified next week how the district's reduction in transportation cuts will affect bus routes. They can also check the district's website for more information, according to Nichols-Washer.

The hub system will save more than $550,000 annually, according to Garcia.

Students who attend Borchardt, Clements, Davis, Houston and Lakewood elementary schools will select the closest school bus stop created by the district, and Clements and Lockeford students who typically saw more stops along Highway 88 will be walking further along the busy road.

Father Chris Lucas is concerned about the safety of these stops and says most are unsafe. Some, such as the one at Collier Road and Highway 88, do not have safe clearance for children to stand or parents to park, he said.

He understands it was his family's choice to live in the country, but his son cannot bicycle 20 miles to his high school.

"I understand there will still be changes," Carvalho said, adding that she's anxious to hear more information about the new routes. Her daughter will now likely have to catch the bus around 6:15 a.m. to get to Tokay on time.

"At least I'm not having to pay to have her ride the bus from there," she said.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 4:21 pm on Thu, Jul 22, 2010.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    I think that the problem was the suddenness of the announcement. If so, what is stopping this issue from moving forward? Now is the time to review and analyze so that whatever fees are announced can be soon enough so people can plan for it.

  • roy bitz posted at 11:44 am on Mon, Jul 19, 2010.

    roy bitz Posts: 489

    It is good that the cost of school bus service has surfaced and an effort was made to recover the cost of providing this FREE CONVENIENCE. Unfortunately, it appears the effort failed---the district caved in--- and tax payers must continue paying for this free convenience for those families who choose to live outside the city limits.
    The hub system seems to be a good good compromise. Hopefully the district will not be forced to continue door to door service.
    In my view, everyone should pay for goods and services they get----but that's just me.

  • devene page-baca posted at 1:59 am on Mon, Jul 19, 2010.

    Devene Page-Baca Posts: 2

    As a parent and tax payer of a student I tend to agree with Bob. The only problem I had with this proposal was that the notice was, very short. My husband and I are responsible for our child, no one owes us a thing. We would have come up with the money. Money is tight now days and they should use the money for education, certified teachers for one thing, music and sports as well. A well rounded child will succeed much better than a child educated in only the basics. Parents who continue to have children when they need public assistance to care for the ones they already have should wake up, the gravy train called welfare is coming to an end,thank goodness.

  • Bob Silvano posted at 5:33 pm on Sun, Jul 18, 2010.

    Bob Silvano Posts: 145

    Please, give me a break. Parents, you chose to have children. Please take care of your responsibilities and ensure your children get to school. So you have two jobs. That's your choice, just like having children. If you need two jobs to support your kids, don't have so many kids. What? That's your choice? Good ! My choice is to have you pay your own way. Why should the rest of the taxpayers be responsible for your children? If you don't like the location of the bus stop, don't drop them off there. Take them to school yourself. What the heck does the rest of the population owe you? Pay your own way. Do you think school is a welfare issue? Get a life. Why is it that everyone thinks they are owed something? You are owed nothing !

  • Ann Smith posted at 8:34 am on Sun, Jul 18, 2010.

    Ann Smith Posts: 23

    I disagree with this decision. Instead of firing teachers we should be cutting back the bus staff. Obviously if only 1 person bought a ticket all the other parents had plans to get their kids to school. The kids can walk or ride their bikes or their parents can drive them. If this helps saves teachers and programs we should all be for it.
    As for gas waste, we have the short buses which use less gas. Dont use the big buses unless their are enough paid riders for the big buses. The savings in gas and bus drivers salaries should help the school districts.
    For those who did pay there should not be a change to their pick up location.

  • Alice Dodson posted at 8:07 am on Sat, Jul 17, 2010.

    Alice Dodson Posts: 20

    Yeah, back to free rides for everyone but the tax payers.

  • Ben Delph posted at 7:57 am on Sat, Jul 17, 2010.

    Ben Delph Posts: 1

    One person paid to ride the bus? Obviously, we no longer need to provide this service. When families were asked to pay to ride, all were able to make other arrangements.

  • gina contreras posted at 7:52 am on Sat, Jul 17, 2010.

    Gina Contreras Posts: 1

    So our "HUB System" is Flag City..... Who really wants to have thier kids dropped off and picked up at Flag City.....A high traffic truck stop? Is there going to be anyone there to make sure the kids that have to wait for thier rides make it safely? My kids have a better chance to walk the mile or so on the busy road to school itself than chance it all the way out to flag city, if parents have the time to wait it out to pick the kids up at flag city or tower park they might aswell have the time to pick up the kids from school and not risk thier safety. Those of us who have to work have to work out other options for thier children. I would have paid the money to keep the bus stops as they were closer to the homes, but not to drop them off at flag city.



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