May 18, 2010 (Poway) – By a unanimous 5-0 decision, Poway Unified School District’s board last night voted to eliminate all school busses for the 2010-2011 school year, with the exception of special education transportation. The District, which faces a $25 million budget gap, estimates the move will save $750,000.
The decision raises serious concerns about student safety, coming on the heels of the murders of Poway High School student Chelsea King and Amber Dubois, who was kidnapped while walking to school in Escondido.
Just days ago, the mother of Amber Dubois urged parents not to let their teenage daughters walk to school. But in the Poway district, parents will no longer have school busses as options—meaning more students may be walking to school, driving themselves or carpooling with friends or neighbors.
“We are disappointed the board voted to eliminate regular education busing. We feel the safety of students should be Poway Unified’s number one priority. Hopefully, parents will be willing to pay a little more to keep their children safe and keep our school buses running,” said Melinda Battenberg, communications specialist at Service Employees Itnernational Union (SEIU) Local 221, which represents bus drivers.
Presently about 10% of the district’s 33,000 students ride the bus, said Marlene Cowell, executive assistant to the Board. The Board has stated it would restore bus service for the fall if 85% of fee-paying parents will buy transportation passes priced at a hefty $575 (a 30 percent hike) by August 6th. Cowell suggested those who can’t afford the fee should arrange car pools, adding, “It’s not an easy issue.”