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Kids walking farther to school will save money

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POSTED March 25, 2009 4:50 a.m.

It wasn’t too long ago that the Manteca Unified school board approved cuts to offset a $23.5 million shortfall for the upcoming year.

Included under the Level II cuts as recommended by Superintendent Jason Messer’s budget reduction committee was a proposal to extend the walking distance to school by a half mile.

Enter Jason Osborn who handles the district’s transportation department.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, he unveiled a plan of adopting a no-bus zone and changing the walking distances to a radius of the respective campuses.

For example, it could be OK for kindergarten-through-eighth-grade students living within a 1.25 mile radius of the campus to walk to and from school.

The same goes for high school students, with the home-to-school walking radius, in this case, being 2.5 miles.

“There would be no freeway overpass crossing for students nor walking on road shoulders,” Osborn added.

Trustee Manuel Medeiros also shared some safety concerns.

“I would be worried about the people living in the country, especially those south of Manteca during the foggy season,” he said. “Those are issues we will need to address.”

Currently, the district has a walking distance policy for students in K-3 (1 mile), grades 4-6 (1.5 miles), grades 7-8 (2 miles) and grades 9-12 (2.5 miles).

 “It does exist in the handbook but not enforced,” Osborn said.

Another area of concern could come in the way of busing. Eliminating certain bus routes could affect as many as 691 high school students and 1,074 elementary students.

Under this proposal, Lathrop High could lose as many as eight buses while Manteca High and Sierra High could have four fewer buses each.

“We have no buses at Weston Ranch High with the exception of the overflow at Mossdale,” Osborn said.

He noted that it might be necessary to add a bus to Calla High.

As for the elementary sites, French Camp School, a program improvement site receiving Title 1 money, could lose buses under the plan.

“But we can still use our Title 1 money there to fund for transportation at French Camp,” Messer said.

However, students attending Brock Elliott, New Haven, Nile Garden, Mossdale, Lathrop, Woodward and Veritas could be affected by the plan.

That’s the reason for district planning six community meetings, kicking off on March 31 at 7 p.m. at the Weston Ranch High library.

“We’re looking to get public comments,” said Messer.

The other 7 p.m. sessions are planned for Lathrop High (April 14, cafeteria), East Union High (April 15, cafeteria), Sierra High (April 16, cafeteria), and Manteca High (April 21, speech arts building).

This Level II cut could account for $355,000 in savings.

In addition, the district’s transportation department with 38 contracted employees will also take on the responsibilities of handling the special needs students, with Manteca Unified doing away with the services of First Student buses.

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