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District to 2,000 kids: No busing
Cost-saving move means students are on their own
The Manteca Unified School District’s transportation department is looking to streamline services as a cost-cutting measure to the general fund necessary for next year. - photo by Bulletin file photo
Stacey Hernandez shares the one big concern of those attending the recent Manteca Unified transportation department meetings – safety.

She resides south of the Highway 120 Bypass, where her daughter, Adrianna, a sixth-grade student, takes one of the three buses traveling to and from Walter E. Woodward School.

“My husband and I both work in the Bay Area – we both leave early and rely on the bus,” Hernandez said at Tuesday’s session held at the Manteca High speech arts building. “We also have a son who will be in kindergarten next year.

“It worries me that he and our daughter might have to walk to school at a time when it’s busy along Woodward Avenue.”
Under the proposed “no bus zone,” Woodward School would lose all three of its buses.

According to Jason Osborn, the transportation director, those attending all five meetings held at each of the comprehensive high schools were concerned about overall safety.

Other concerns included students having to bike or walk in areas lacking sidewalks, traveling along busy roads, and sexual predators.

In 2004, the district came up with its point-to-point transportation plan, in turn, establishing walking distances for kindergarten- through third- grade students (1 mile); fourth / sixth (1.5 miles); seventh / eighth (2 miles); and ninth- through 12th- grades (2.5 miles).

Included were walking distance mitigations:

• Students will not walk over freeway overpasses.

• Road shoulder and sidewalks must be adequate.

• Students crossing busy roads will be minimized.

• High school students can walk to feeder schools for bus pick-up.

The school board, as part of the $23.5 million budget shortfall, agreed to extend the established walking distance by a half-mile while approving for the transportation department to handle special needs students in-house rather than rely on the contracted busing services of First Student as a further cost-cutting measure.

At next week’s school board meeting, Osborn could ask the board to adopt a “no bus zone” to replace the “walking distance” term.

“We’re putting the burden on the family of getting their children to school by eliminating buses,” he said.

Osborn, in addition, is proposing a “radius” or, rather, a point drawn around each of the school sites based on air miles.

“A ‘road mile’ is roughly equal to 85 percent of an ‘air mile,’” he said.

This proposed radius consists of a perimeter of about 1.25 miles from the campus for kindergarten- through eighth-grade students, and 2.5 miles for ninth- through 12th-grade students.

“Unfortunately, kids don’t fly like the crows (based on air miles),” said Karen Pearsall, who drives her daughter daily to Manteca High.

Besides Woodward, Lathrop High, East Union High, Weston Ranch High, Brock Elliott School, George Komure School, Golden West School, Great Valley School, Joseph Widmer School, Mossdale School, Neil Hafley School, Sequoia School, and Shasta School would be among the sites with very limited or no bus services.

The district is expected to save about $400,000 from the general fund under the plan.
“But this move could affect the lives of nearly 2,000 students,” Pearsall added.

The “no bus zone” maps can be found on the district website, or by contacting Manteca Unified at (209) 825-3200.