SEATTLE — Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has proposed making changes to its transportation plan, including bus ride times of up to 45 times, with expected savings for the district between $250,000 and $500,000.
Each year, SPS’ board approves transportation standards — the times at which school buses drop off students at school and pick them up after school. The transportation standards are adjusted for many reasons, including when routes change or when new schools are opened.
The 2011-12 school year’s transportation standards changes were expected to save the district approximately $4 million, but due to enrollment growth, changes in programs and routing challenges, officials said approximately $2 million is being realized from those changes.
Given the district’s continuing budget shortfalls, it was hoped that the transportation standards adopted for 2012-13 would generate additional savings to balance the budget. However, given the growth in enrollment, the projected savings are minimal.
This spring, officials worked to develop a balanced budget for the upcoming school year, and the school board requested an analysis of options that could generate more savings from transportation.
The transportation office was restructured, and staff was asked to continue researching the adopted standards and also to research new cost-saving options for board review. Proposed modified standards for 2012-13 were introduced to the school board on May 2, which received feedback from the community.
Since then, the transportation staff has continued to research various options, and this additional research will result in a new proposal to the school board on May 16.
The proposal will return to the current 2011-12 transportation plan, which has a minimal impact on current bell times, and the proposal will return to 2010 ride times of up to 45 minutes. (As SBF previously reported, the 2011-12 plan decreased the bus ride time for attendance-area schools to 25 minutes or less.)
Officials said that in addition to the anticipated $250,000 to $500,000 in savings, the proposed new option is responsive to the community feedback and will impact the students, schools and families the least.
Moreover, to have a more thorough analysis of options for the 2013-14 school year and beyond, SPS has identified a task force that comprises state and local technical transportation experts to begin making recommendations for consideration.
Officials said the task force will begin this month and have recommendations for the superintendent to review in September, prior to the open enrollment period.