ROSEMOUNT, Minn. — At a time when many school districts across the nation are having to cut bus routes, a Minnesota district came up with a way to increase its transportation service.
At Independent School District (ISD) 196, Coordinator of Transportation Randy Dukek recently presented to the school board a plan to offer transportation for a fee to students who aren’t currently eligible for service.
The board approved the plan in a meeting on Monday. It will go into effect for the 2010-11 school year.
Interestingly, the district already goes beyond what Minnesota mandates. While state law requires districts to transport all students who live outside a two-mile radius of their school, ISD 196 has been providing free transportation for elementary students who live more than half a mile from school and secondary students who live more than one mile.
Under the new plan, students inside those district-set boundaries can pay $250 per year (or $125 for students eligible for free or reduced-price school meals) to ride the bus. The fees are expected to allow the district to recoup the cost of the extra service.
Dukek said that although the registration for the service hadn’t started yet, there appeared to be even more interest from parents than he had anticipated.
“We’ll know more soon, but it seems to be going over fairly positively,” Dukek told SBF.
ISD 196 owns and operates about 200 school buses. Ridership is now around 23,000 students, which is a remarkable 82 percent of the approximately 28,000 students enrolled in the district.
Dukek said that the new fee-for-service option might add a few hundred riders initially.
“Many are used to walking or finding other transportation for those distances currently,” he said. But ridership will likely increase further “as more people get used to the option.”
The key reason behind the expanded service is the safety of the students.
“In these suburban metro areas, the amount of busy roads you have — there are concerns there with hazards,” Dukek said.
ISD 196 already made exceptions for students inside the eligibility boundaries who have hazardous crossings on their way to school. Free transportation is also provided for special-education students within the boundaries whose IEP requires it.
For more information on ISD 196’s fee-for-service option, click here.