San Dieguito school district considers ending bus transportation for students

The San Dieguito Union High School District is considering eliminating bus service in the 2015-16 school year because of declining ridership and cost concerns. A survey will go out to district parents to gather input before any final recommendations are made for next year, according to Eric Dill, associate superintendent of business services.

According to the board report given at a Feb. 5 budget workshop, the district is considering eliminating middle school transportation and high school shuttles and re-deploying the fleet and drivers to support athletic field trips to reduce costs. By using the fleet it has for athletic trips, the district would need fewer private charters for teams and see reduced overtime costs for drivers and reduced wear on the fleet, extending the life of the buses.

No change is proposed to special education transportation.

According to the report, ridership has been declining at district schools for the past few years. Ridership peaked in the 2010-11 school year with 1,307 riders, but for 2015-16, it is projected to be at 696 districtwide.

At Carmel Valley Middle School, ridership is expected to decline from 300 in 2014-15 to 247 for 2015-16. Earl Warren is expected to fall from 224 this year to 187 in the fall. There are 67 riders at Diegueno and 195 at Oak Crest.

Some of the schools offer free passes for students including 21 at La Costa Canyon, 26 at Torrey Pines and 11 at Sunset.

Ridership is projected to fall because of more flexible scheduling options, intra-district transfers and the opening of Pacific Trails Middle School, which will further decrease ridership because of shorter travel distance for students.

Additionally, the buses represent a cost concern for the district. The bus fleet is aging —of the 22 buses, the models are from 1997-2003, the average mileage is 142,141 and replacement cost $180,000 each.

According to the board report, updating the fleet would cost the general fund $3 million over the next five years.

Athletic transportation is also supported by the general fund and the district’s 4,000 student athletes take more than 1,700 athletic trips a year.

The school foundations cover roughly half the cost of athletic field trip transportation, but about half of the trips are chartered at a higher cost when district buses or drivers are unavailable.

The report stated that athletic transportation donations have increased, but the service is still heavily supported by the general fund. In 2014-15, $315,000 came out of the general fund and $325,000 from the foundation.

Several surrounding districts no longer offer transportation, including Carlsbad and San Marcos and the feeder districts of Cardiff, Del Mar, Encinitas, Rancho Santa Fe and Solana Beach.


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