ETIWANDA, Calif. — Following the death of a 9-year-old girl walking home from school — and petitions by parents to bring back bus service — the Etiwanda School District will launch a pilot transportation program next month.
The district discontinued regular-education school bus service in the 2010-11 school year due to budgetary issues.
On Dec. 4 of last year, 9-year-old Ashlyn Gardner and her 7-year-old brother Landon were crossing a street near their school when they were struck by a pickup truck. Ashlyn was killed.
After the accident, local parents started two online petitions calling for the return of school bus service.
"Taking away the buses has resulted in chaotic traffic conditions daily at [Etiwanda] Colony [Elementary] and Summit [Intermediate] schools," Tressy Capps' petition at MoveOn.org says. "Our kids' safety must come first!"
Shelly Berglund's petition at Change.org cites a need to "relieve the congestion and bring buses back to our schools."
To date, a combined total of more than 1,200 people have signed the petitions.
On Jan. 16, the Etiwanda School District's board of trustees decided to bring regular-ed transportation back — to an extent. The board opted to implement a pilot transportation program for students who live at least 3 miles from their elementary or middle school of residence.
In the program, described as a "shared cost model," parents will pay $40 per month per student, with the district contributing the remaining cost. Some students may qualify for free or reduced-cost transportation based on family income.
(Special-education transportation service will continue to be provided free of charge.)
The pilot program will run from March 25 to May 22. Etiwanda Superintendent Shawn Judson said in a letter to parents that the initiative offers "several positive outcomes" for the district.
"It allows the district to use excess seats for regular-education students on some current special-education bus routes and to recover revenue for those seats," Judson said. "The program also has the potential to reduce congestion around these schools and reduce commute times for parents/guardians who drive their children to/from school."
At the end of this school year, the board of trustees will evaluate the feasibility of continuing the program in 2014-15.
"If sufficient numbers of parents/guardians choose to use this new shared cost transportation program, it may be a viable service to continue into the future," Judson said.
However, the pilot program idea didn't appear to appease some parents. The petition at MoveOn.org has continued to gain more supporters.
"I tried to sign up for the pilot transportation program, and I was told that I didn't qualify because I'm not on the 3 miles distance," parent Wendy Juarez wrote on the petition page on Friday. "I was told that I'm 2.7 to 2.8 distance. I think this is ridiculous and the district needs to change the qualifications."