SEATTLE — Seattle Public Schools is proposing changes to its transportation plan for the 2011-12 school year due to the state’s budget shortfall and the severe budget gap the district is facing for the next school year.
District officials say that the changes would save the district $4 million (the equivalent of 45 teaching positions) by creating new transportation zones that would streamline bus routes for attendance area elementary and K-8 schools.
Bus ride times for attendance area schools would decrease to 25 minutes or less. Moreover, as routes would be shorter, buses would be less likely to encounter the traffic delays that occur on longer routes, so families would find departure and arrival times to be more reliable. The plan would also benefit the environment by taking about 80 buses off the road, reducing the district’s carbon footprint.
Children who live within the transportation zone and outside of walk zones would be eligible for district-provided transportation. Transportation zones would include the entire attendance area of a school, extending to areas within a 1.25-mile radius from the school and within the middle school service area. Existing walk zones to schools would still apply.
Bus transportation for middle schools, high schools, option schools, English-language learners, special-education students and advanced learning students would have minimal changes.
In addition to the new zones, some schools' bell times would change, with some high schools and middle schools starting 10 minutes earlier, and elementary schools starting five minutes later.
As a result of the plan, some elementary and K-8 students currently receiving transportation this year might not get transportation next year. District officials are working to provide the following intermediary bus options for impacted students for the next two years, 2011-13:
• Students who live within a half of a mile from the transportation zone boundary could walk to a bus stop within the zone. Seats will be allocated on a space-available basis.
• A shuttle system would be created so students can catch a bus at one school and take it to another.
On Wednesday, the district planned to start loading maps so that families can see proposed intermediary transportation options based on student address, with completion by this Saturday.
The district is inviting members of the community to learn more about the plan during informational meetings this Thursday, as well as on Feb. 3 and Feb. 8.
The school board is scheduled to vote on the proposed transportation plan at its Feb. 16 legislative meeting. Opportunities to comment during public testimony will be available at Feb. 2 and Feb. 16 board meetings.
Additional information is available on the transportation services page of the district's website.