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Parents unhappy with bus cutbacks

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POSTED August 26, 2009 2:57 a.m.
Sandi Larsen is a Manteca Unified bus driver.

Her route consists of Nile Garden School and Sierra High. Involved here are two siblings, where the older boy attends high school and the girl goes to the elementary site.

“I’m taking the brother (on the bus) but I’m not able to take the sister,” Larsen said at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

The reason for that is the “no bus zone” plan approved last June by the board as a Level II cut to bridge the $31 million budget shortfall. Much of the familiar home-to-school transportation was eliminated, saving the district about $300,000 for the 2009-10 school year.

In this case, the younger of the two siblings on Larsen’s bus route lives within the 1.25-mile radius of the school site as established for kindergarten- through eighth-grade students, with parents responsible for providing transportation to and from school under this plan. Her brother, however, is outside of the 2.5-mile radius set for ninth- through 12th- grade students.

Trustees also heard frustrated parents air out their concerns at the open session, including several non-English speakers (board secretary Chelo De Leon helped serve as an interpreter during public comments).

“It’s dangerous having our children walk on these roads,” said Jaime Serna, who also spoke on behalf of other family members.

Their youngsters attend New Haven School, with the rural area lacking sidewalks and cross walks.

Parents were also concerned about the volume of trucks en route to the San Joaquin County waste facility on south Austin Road – the same road as the school site – and the added number of cars at the student drop-off point at the school.

“It’s a free-for-all in the morning,” said Joanna de Graaf.

She along with the other parents at the meeting recently contacted school officials, district personnel, and board members about their concerns, particularly since they also noticed school buses still traveling in their area.

President Michael Seelye, who noted the agenda for the August meeting had already been set when he received word on the problem, indicated that the transportation plan may be in need of some tweaking.

Trustee Nancy Teicheira agreed.

“We really have to look at safety at all of our school sites,” she said.

Trustee Vern Gebhardt recommended a study team consisting of bus drivers and possibly a parent.

“I don’t want to put any of our students in danger,” he said.
Added Seelye: “I’m hoping we can come up with a solution.”

The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 8.
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