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Bus service cutback possible in Ripon
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RIPON – Having to wait for buses to unload passengers and navigate railroad tracks might not be much of a worry for Ripon parents when school reconvenes in the fall.

But the bigger change might come if the debate over whether to eliminate Ripon Unified’s open borders policy – that allows any student anywhere in the district to choose which school they want to attend as long as space permits – moves from beyond the discussion level and into possible consideration.

According to Superintendent Louise Nan, if the cuts that the state are currently proposing hold up  – which would slash the transportation budget from $400,000 to only $76,000 – it would be financially impossible to continue to offer the same level of service.

And it’s just the newest in an already long list of things that are victims of the Sacramento shortage.

“Transportation has just been the latest thing that we’ve had to deal with in all of this,” Nan said. “We’ve lost our Reader’s Workshop program, our classroom aides, teaching positions, and had to transfer students around the district just to even out the grade levels.

“Right now our hope is just to keep the lights on and the doors open, and to ask Sacramento to give us some help with flexibility in our funding.”

Nan estimates that it costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $600 per student to provide transportation to and from school throughout the year – an amount that would be a tremendous burden to many parents to cover individually.

The last state budget crunch eventually led Manteca Unified to impose transportation fees for athletes that used district buses to get to out-of-town sporting events.

A survey that the district put out to parents asking about whether they’d be in favor of instituting a new policy where students would be sent to the school closest to them and not one across town was evenly split at the last tally, Nan said – noting that the talks of school boundaries had only been discussed at the staff level and had not been brought before the school board for formal consideration.

With changes starting at the very core of Ripon Unified currently taking shape to meet the new financial reality that educators are facing, the stringent standards that the state has imposed to measure school success are likely to stay in place.

“We have fewer resources across the board from programs to teachers, and yet we’re still expected to meet some of the highest standards in the entire country,” Nan said. “It’s an unfortunate reality that we’re all going to have to face.”