View Mobile Site

Manteca Unified needs to fine tune its busing decision

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED August 29, 2009 2:11 a.m.
The decision to cut home-to-school busing inside a 1.25-mile radius for elementary students and a 2.5-mile radius for high school students around Manteca Unified campuses was clear in terms of who gets a ride and who doesn’t.

Unfortunately, winter mornings aren’t that clear in Manteca.

One must laud the Manteca Unified School District board for making the tough decisions that helped save $31 million needed to keep the schools open and be able to provide students with an education. It is an opportunity everyone should value even more today given our economy and the cutbacks.

Having said that, the school board needs to consider some fine tuning before the dank, dark, and foggy mornings of deep winter arrive in the South County.

It is a given it is safer to have kids on a bus going to and from school than walking. However, it is even more precarious in the country where there are no sidewalks and street lights with traffic going at much higher speeds along roads that often don’t even have shoulders.

The one-size-fits-all-approach sounds democratic and such but it has been done in a manner where it clearly puts one group of kids in greater danger than others. Students going to rural schools are much more vulnerable when they are walking.

It is ironic, in a way, as Manteca Unified was one of the first districts in the entire state to install special lights on buses to make them more visible in the thick Tule fog of winter plus. The district will also sideline buses when it is too foggy yet having kids as young at 6 years old walking in fog along rural roads to get to school garners little consideration.

Buses right now go to Nile Garden and New Haven School – the district’s two truly rural campuses – with less-than-full loads. How expensive is it to re-institute stops for elementary students within the 1.25-mile radius for New Haven and Nile Garden schools? Has any trustee requested a cost analysis or are they afraid of “offending” others who live within a 1.25-mile radius whose kids have to walk to school along city streets in Manteca, Lathrop, Weston Ranch or even parts of French Camp?

If the cost is minimal – say $2,000 to $5,000 – the board needs to give some serious consideration to adding the stops around rural schools back to bus schedules.

The only major area with serious safety concerns within the Manteca city limits with kids walking to neighborhood schools has been addressed for now with Manteca Transit adding a route to serve the areas straddling Airport Way south of the Highway 120 Bypass.

Virtually all of the students that attend elementary campuses in Weston Ranch, Lathrop and Manteca proper all live in developed areas. Are there a handful who may live in the rural areas east of Manteca for example, who have to walk along roads with no shoulders where the speed limits is 55 mph to reach Joshua Cowell School? Probably. Is it a high number? Not likely.

For the sake of safety, the board needs to revisit the issue as long as it addresses a narrow set of perimeters which in this case should be the safety of students in rural areas where they don’t have the option of doing anything else but walking.

Instead of a sign that the board is caving in or kow-towing to a specific group, it would demonstrate that they are willing – within budget constraints – to rethink and refine blanket decisions to minimize the danger to students.

While any kid walking to school could be in danger of getting hurt it is magnified in the rural portions of Manteca Unified.
Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...