SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A school district here will try out fee-based busing in a pilot program set to launch next school year.
Officials at Sioux Falls School District said that a district-wide survey of elementary and middle school parents showed "significant interest" in fee-for-service transportation for specialized elementary school and middle school students.
The district supports five elementary specialized programs at six different schools and is planning two middle school specialized programs. Currently, only one — the Challenge Center — offers transportation from outside of the school’s attendance area.
The survey found that 71% of Challenge Center parents, 75% of other specialized elementary school parents and 98% of middle school parents would at least consider paying for transportation.
A 15-member committee, composed of parents, administrators and representatives from contractor School Bus Inc., recommended the pilot program.
At least five fee-based bus routes will be run throughout the district in the 2013-14 school year, with a central transfer point at a middle school before and after school for specialized elementary students.
The per-semester busing fees will be based on families' lunch payment qualifications: $150 for busing for those with full lunch pay, $100 for those with reduced-price lunch and $50 for those with free lunch. The maximum family payment will be two times the individual rate.
The district will utilize $115,000 of the current transportation budget to support the program. Additional costs will be covered by the transportation fees.
The $115,000 will come from the elimination of free transportation for the Challenge Center, a school for gifted students.
District officials said that the free transportation for the Challenge Center was "a remnant of the fact that gifted was formerly considered a disabling condition under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). ... When gifted was eliminated as a disabling condition under IDEA, busing to the Challenge Center continued."
For more information, see the district's report on the fee-based transportation program.
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• District to reinstate free bus service
• 2 different takes on bus fees