GREELEY, Colo. — A school district here is taking steps to cut transportation costs by restructuring routes and increasing student walking distances.
The changes at Greeley-Evans School District 6 come after voters in November didn’t approve a ballot measure that would have provided about $12 million annually for seven years for the district. Also, district leaders pointed to a projected cut in state funding as another factor in their efforts to reallocate dollars in the 2017-18 budget.
“With the failure of the mill levy override last November, it became apparent we would not have the dollars needed to raise salaries for our bus drivers and other employees,” Greeley-Evans Superintendent Deirdre Pilch said in a press release. “For most of this year, we have had up to 16 bus driver positions open. Without more resources, that isn’t going to change.”
As part of the restructuring, Greeley-Evans will increase its walking distances from 1.25 to 1.5 miles for elementary students, from 1.5 to 2 miles for middle schoolers, and from 2.5 to 3 miles for high schoolers. According to Greeley-Evans, the new walking distances are similar to those of most school districts in the region.
Also, Greeley-Evans will eliminate neighborhood pickups for high school students. Transportation for high schoolers will be limited to predetermined stops for those who live outside the walk boundary.
Special-education students who qualify for individual transportation won’t be affected by the changes, but some other students will no longer be eligible for school bus service.
“I am very sorry that this will create some inconvenience for some of our families,” Pilch said. “I am confident we can work together to make these changes as smooth and non-disruptive to our students and families as possible.”
According to the district website, the Greeley-Evans transportation department currently operates more than 100 school buses daily, transporting about 8,000 students to and from school. The restructuring will eliminate 14 school bus routes.
The district said that the reduction in routes is more in line with the number of drivers that Greeley-Evans is able to employ. Also, the changes will enable the district to take its oldest, most expensive-to-maintain buses out of service, fueling further costs savings.
The new routes are expected to be established by Aug. 1.
Along with the transportation restructuring, Greeley-Evans will shift its school bell schedules next year. The move will include later start times for high schools — 8 a.m. at the earliest — which Pilch said has been linked to improvements in attendance and behavior.
“Research supports a later start time for older students who biologically need more sleep and have later sleep cycles than younger students,” the superintendent said. “We have worked with our leadership team and our principals to develop start times that work at all levels.”