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3,600 Students Could Lose Bus Transport



Alex Starr

The Seattle School Board Wednesday night approved changes to the Seattle Public Schools Transportation Plan that district officials say will get kids to school in 25 minutes or less and make bus arrival times and departures more reliable. It will also mean that as many as 3,600 students currently eligible for school transportation will become ineligible.

The new plan was developed in part to offset severe budget gaps in district and cuts to public school funding expected at the state level when lawmakers pass a budget this legislative session.

The plan approved by the school board creates new neighborhood-based Transportation Zones which will incorporate the entire attendance area of a school, extending to areas within a 1.25-mile radius from a school within the middle school service area. The result, the district hopes, will be streamlined bus routes for all elementary and K-8 schools in the district starting with the 2011-12 school year.

An estimated 3,600 elementary students currently receiving transportation would become ineligible for bus trans because they reside outside of the new transportation zones. The district recommends that:

  • Students who live within a half of a mile from the Transportation Zone boundary can walk to a bus stop within the zone. Seats will be allocated on a space available basis.

  • Community stops will be created so students can catch a bus at or near an attendance area school and take it to another school.

  • Students who are no longer eligible for transportation will receive a guaranteed assignment to their attendance area school if requested.

The Transportation Zones are designed to reduce the bus ride time for students to 25 minutes or less. District officials say the plan would take 80 buses out of circulation at a savings of $4 million.

Children within the transportation zone and outside of walk zones will be eligible for district-provided transportation. Existing walk zones to schools would still apply.

Under the approved plan, bus transportation for middle schools, high schools, option schools, English Language Learners, Special Education and Advanced Learning programs would have minimal changes.

In addition to the new zones, some bus arrival and departure times will change, with some high schools and middle schools arriving 10-15 minutes earlier and elementary schools arriving 10-15 minutes later. School bell times will be set by the individual schools.

Families can request an assignment to a different school based on the changes in transportation service approved by the school board this week. Open Enrollment will be be extended to run from March 15-April 15, 2011.

Letters to families regarding their student's transportation eligibility for next year will be sent out in March. Online informational maps and additional information on the eligibility changes are available on the Transportation Services website.

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