Kids relying on the school bus to get to and from school will have to find other means of transport when classes resume at August 22.
The new policy will impact about 600 students who live more than three miles from their school and will now have to take the city bus or find a carpool. Students who are disabled will continue to be bused in along with students who live in rural areas, although these routes will be consolidated.
The changes are being implemented because the district, which has about 10,000 students, is facing $3.3 million in budget cuts this year, unless Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative passes in November.
“We would prefer to not do this, but if we don’t, we’re talking about imposing classroom cuts,” said Midge Hoffman, chief financial officer for the district. “Depending on what happens in November, we’re looking at two scenarios: worse and even worse.”
To account for the dropped school bus service, the district has partnered with Petaluma Transit, which will add a new bus to its current service for morning and afterschool runs.
The bus will pick up students from the main bus station on Maria Drive, travel to Kenilworth Junior High by 7:30am then continue south to Casa Grande High School to drop kids off by 8:15am. It will then repeat the same route in the afternoon, arriving at Kenilworth at 2:45pm and then at Casa by 3:10pm.
“It’s a good thing the school end times are spaced out,” said Joe Rye, Petaluma’s transit manager. “Otherwise we’d have a transportation nightmare.”
The change has created panic among some parents, who aren’t able to take their children to school due to conflicting work schedules or lack of a car.
But Hoffman says she is sure the city buses, along with continued (albeit consolidated) service to Penngrove, Two Rock and rural Petaluma will pick up the slack.
“This has been an incredible dialogue with the city transportation department and we were able to make use of all types of services without duplicating them,” Hoffman said. “It’s a testament to how committed the community is to its schools.”
Students already make up about 40 percent of city bus riders and the latest change will only increase these numbers. To help students pay for the city bus, Petaluma Transit will offer students who qualify for free or reduced lunches $20 quarterly bus passes that can be used on all routes. To purchase a bus pass, click here.
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