POWAY, Calif. — Poway Unified School District's board of directors last month approved a measure to eliminate the district's home-to-school transportation for regular-education students. However, the board also approved a plan to continue regular-ed bus service if 85 percent of parents of current riders agree to a fee increase before Aug. 2.
If parents approve the plan, they will pay $575 for an annual bus pass, a $136 increase over previous years. Parents in the district have been paying fees for bus service for about 25 years.
Transportation Director Tim Purvis said he has so far been seeing interest from parents.
"We're early in the process, but we did a bulk mailing to our eligible population of about 10,000, of which historically we have about 3,400 that ride," he said.
About one week after parents first started receiving the bus pass applications by mail, about 150 had responded with payments, Purvis reported. The applications were mailed out about six weeks early this year.
Parents have the option of selecting a deferred payment plan, making an initial payment of $315 and a second payment of $260 due Nov. 1.
"The deferred payment process or plan allows the parent to buy the most level of service, which is the year-round trip, at a $30 discounted rate," Purvis explains. And if parents happen to default on the second payment, "then they've purchased a semester pass, so no harm no foul," he said.
Purvis hopes to see additional parents sign up as applications continue to be received and as June 15 and 30, typical end dates for pay periods, pass.
Will the district achieve the 85-percent mark? "I get asked that question about 10 times a day," Purvis said. "I want to remain optimistic. I do believe we'll hit a significant number. I will tell you that our board of trustees, regardless of what they're quoted as saying, all very much want me to make this work."
Purvis is also using ConnectEd to send pre-recorded phone messages to the 10,000 eligible households every other Friday. He reminds parents of the proposed plan and its urgency as well as the safety record of school bus transportation and any other encouragements he can fit into 60 seconds, he said.
Whether the district provides regular-ed transportation next year or not, special-ed transportation will not be affected by the cuts. If regular transportation is not provided, about 10 percent of students in the district will have to find another way to school, and Purvis will be forced to lay off staff and will not fill positions left vacant by retirees.
"That leaves one administrator — that's me — two operations supervisors, my administrative assistant, two instructors and two schedulers to support around 1,500 [special-ed] kids a day in buses, and I'm not counting field trips in that. So when you look at it that way, there's not a lot of depth there," Purvis said.
Watch for more on this story in coming months.