|Is It True? Is School Bussing Coming Back? |
It is if we want it and it is certainly doable.
Circulation is, as it should be, our primary concern/issue now and going forward in HMB. It has an effect on just about all we do or try to do. The problems with circulation won’t solve themselves; we need to address it, all work together, be creative and find solutions.
Any weekday during the school year presents us with all we can handle at approximately 7 AM and 3 PM in three City locations; Hatch Elementary, Cunha Middle School and HMB High School. The CUSD District office is also located in HMB, but has not presented the challenges we feel from the schools. So this is not only a CUSD issue, it is a HMB issue as well (maybe more-so).
The CUSD used to have bussing. They owned their busses and were therefor responsible for ownership issues; maintenance, titles, licenses, storing, drivers (plus benefits) and more - an expensive proposition by any measure. In 1992, I spoke to the CUSD Board and suggested they put out RFPs to farm bussing out. Just try it. It would have been significantly cheaper to do so, while still getting our kids to and from school safely while not significantly impacting traffic - so I gave it a go.
What I got was quite a show, as one by one each CUSD employee (driver) walked up to the podium to share their knowledge of the routes, the students they pick up and drop off, the parents of those students and more - basically strongly opposing the idea ... because they would lose their jobs. So it was all about jobs and had nothing to do with getting our children to and from school safely in such a challenging and large District geography. That was a lesson for and to me, and I got it - so I gave up.
Since then, the CUSD has eliminated bussing, with few exceptions (that we all still pay for). In a District this geographically large and diverse, it just seems intuitive to me that the CUSD, being the only public school choice, should be bussing our youth. We have seen the impact with bussing and now have had a good look at the impact without bussing. All evidence that I can find supports reinstating bussing - and that is in all our best interests, now and going forward.
Yesterday, Monday, January 13, 2015 (still not used to that 15 stuff..), there were at least two Special Agency meetings; one was the City Council (started at 8 AM) and the other was the CUSD (started at 6 PM). I went to and spoke at both. One of three thoughts I shared with the City Council was that school bussing was not just a CUSD problem; it is a City problem as well (some reasons mentioned above) and without school bussing, our Level of Service was F at 7 AM and 3 PM. I suggested that the City work with the CUSD to reinstate bussing through contributions. I imagine, at least at the start, that we could call it a pilot program lasting two years. We can monitor the program, make adjustments as needed or able, and see what impact school bussing would have on Citywide circulation.
I then went to the CUSD Board meeting and proposed the same thing, only with more. I have absolutely no doubt that those poor CUSD trustees have heard it so many times that they can recite all the arguments in their sleep, but they hadn’t heard what I suggested - that it be a collaborative effort with the groups that already support them (PTA’s, Site Councils, CEF, private donors, etc) and the City and whoever else values busing. This is not a burden they need carry by themselves.
Now, with that said, I also suggested more. I identified the High School as the number one culprit and also one that can be modified, reducing the circulation problem. We are lucky that there has never been an emergency at the HS at crunch times. I’m not comfortable tempting fate. I suggested that they could also widen Louis Foster Drive to three (3) lanes which would produce obvious benefits for all, including circulation. This is of particular import because the traffic jam resulting from the end of the school day at the HS in particular can be and is felt by the evening commuters coming home. By the time ‘rush hour’ really starts, it is already at Service Level F because of the poor start it got due to the jam from the HS.
I also reminded the CUSD Board that we are currently paying on 3 bonds and the extended parcel tax. The Wavecrest bond payments should terminate around 2020 I believe, but that is small potatoes to the $81 Million borrowing authority they received in 2013 that will last for Forty Years and will require between $150mm-$200mm payback over that time, assuming no glitches.
Further, while I told them I opposed that $81 Million bond measure, I also told them that if they were to place a measure on the ballot that spoke only to bussing, I’d vote for it. That is how strongly I believe school bussing is to and for our community.
School bussing alone won't "solve" all our circulation issues, but it will help a lot and is a good start.
Mayor Fraser (City) thanked me for my comments at the City Council meeting, followed by ‘next speaker’ and two of the CUSD Board members were very polite and suggested I contact the CUSD Superintendent, which I plan on doing.
In the meantime, I thought I’d put it ‘out there’ to see is anyone has any other ideas and to get some feedback.