There is a possibility Manteca Unified may restore to and from school busing for all students that live over a mile from an elementary or 1½ miles from a high school when the next school year starts Aug. 5.
The school board is conducting a workshop today at 5 p.m. at the district office, 2271 West Louise Ave., to discuss transportation.
Due to the pandemic, the district was forced to drop to and from school busing for all students except for homeless and special education students — two groups the state mandates school districts must provide bus service.
The reason for the decision was COVID-19 social distancing requirements in place at the time significantly reduced bus capacity.
That meant 84-passneger buses could end up only carry six to eight students at a time. The smaller 20-passenger buses were reduced to three or four passengers.
Given the district last fall had 456 special education students and 861 students classified as homeless the district was forced to use all of their available buses to transport special education and homeless students.
That meant bus service for 1,200 other students that lived outside of walking distance to campuses were no longer being bused.
Since schools aren’t reimbursed for bus service — even students the state mandates them to transport — the board had no choice but to drop the to and from school busing.
The district spent $6 million in the 2019-2020 school year to bus not just special education and homeless students but the 1,200 other students that lived farthest away from campuses.
Had the district not dropped the service, they would have had to cannibalize funds dedicated to classrooms by upwards of an additional $20 million just to pay for busing.
That’s because social distancing would have required a bus that may have once collected 40 students on a route to make five or so additional trips. It also would have made it a logistic nightmare to get students to school on time.
At the end of April as COVID conditions improved and the Centers for Disease Control allowed more students on a given bus, it enabled the district to switch six larger buses back to transporting other students to and from school.
Due to a still limited capacity based on COVID-19 rules, the district increased the distance from campus for students to be eligible to ride the bus.
Kindergarten through eighth graders that live beyond a two mile radius from a school campus were eligible to ride a bus. That’s was a mile farther out than before the pandemic.
On the high school level, the distance to be eligible for busing was doubled to three miles. Before the pandemic it was 1½ miles for high school students.
Today’s workshop is being staged to review the current busing policy that was put in place at the end of April.
Staff is expected to make recommendations to alter that policy. The board will review those recommendations and weigh them against current resources available to serve students.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org