The Sioux Falls School Board approved a plan Monday that would charge parents who want to bus their children to specialized programs. The pilot project for the 2013-2014 school year will run at least five routes across town. It comes after parents said they would pay for such a program in a district-wide survey
“You theoretically can go from the west side of town to the east side and I guess it's just parent preference in how long they want their kids to be on the bus and all that type of thing,” Sioux Falls School Board President Doug Morrison said during discussion before Monday’s vote.
The fee-based transportation pilot project will bus students to programs at the six specialized elementary schools. It will also take them to special middle school programs as they are implemented.
“Pick-ups will be at the elementary schools with a transfer at Patrick Henry [Middle School] at 7:30 a.m.,” business manager Todd Vik said. “The transfer will be supervised by two to three education assistants. No supervision will be provided at the elementary pickup sites.”
The district will stop its free transportation under the plan. Vik said that will save $115,000, which will be put back into the fee-based system to subsidize costs.
“Most of those [routes], possibly all of them will start after 7 a.m. So we're going to try to get those down to 40 minutes,” Vik said.
Parents will pay a sliding fee modeled after the school district’s family lunch income guidelines: $150 per student each semester for full pay, $100 for students on reduced lunch and $50 each semester for those on free lunch plans.
No family will pay more than two times the set rate; even if there are more than two children bussed. Families can sign up for the pilot program later this month with it beginning in the 2013-2014 school year. After that the administration will decide if the pilot plan becomes permanent.
“It would be definitely prior to next year's budget proposal where we would know if it would be included or not included,” Superintendent Pam Homan told the school board.
“It's something from all indications the parents are asking for. We'll have to see how it goes,” Morrison said.
Buses will also offer extended afternoon routes to return children closer to daycares and accommodate working families.
The school board also approved plans to move up all building improvements to increase security Monday night. The district has been changing buildings since 2009 to make entrances more secure. The cost will mean an additional $6.7 million in the capital outlay plan.