SFUSD mulls cutting buses

School buses will be cut by 57 percent during the next three years if a proposed cost-saving transportation policy is adopted by the San Francisco Unified School District.

The proposed changes include reducing service to roughly 900 children, reducing the district’s bus fleet to 25 and eliminating transportation for 950 students to after-school programs.

Buses would continue to provide service to students living in low test-score areas and bring them to language-immersion and K-8 schools. They would also still provide service to racially isolated schools to create diversity and bring students from high-density areas of The City to lower-density areas, district officials said.

Though cuts to specific bus routes and stops were not revealed Wednesday, Board of Education Commissioner Rachel Norton said she was not comfortable supporting a proposal that abandoned families who did not participate in the district’s after-school programs.

“I think we need to guarantee a spot for those students at an after-school program at their school if we’re taking away their transportation,” Norton said.

Betty Robinson-Harris, chair of the district’s child development committee, warned the SFUSD that cuts could potentially hurt parents in the Bayview district the most.

“I know parents of the Bayview community truly depend on transportation to get their children back and forth to school,” Robinson-Harris said. “Please keep in mind the social justice issues.”

District officials said the changes are long overdue, though. The current routes are a “hodgepodge” of destinations from student assignment policies and school requests beginning in the 1980s.

The district currently transports roughly 3,300 general-education elementary school children with 44 yellow buses on various routes. Special education is a separate operation and is required by law.

It costs the district roughly $100,000 to operate one bus, according to Assistant Superintendent Myong Leigh. The district spends roughly $6.3 million on general-education transportation. Changes would reflect the new student assignment system, adopted in March, and be phased in over the next three years.

“It’s not easy to make such sweeping changes,” said Orla O’Keeffe, SFUSD’s education policy analyst. “We will be looking at each stop, their implications and how they relate to our goals.”

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