OMAHA, Neb. — Omaha Public Schools is planning to cut back school bus service beginning with the 2017-18 school year in an effort to simplify the system and lower costs, the Associated Press reports.  

In June, the school board approved an overhaul of the student assignment plan as a way to simplify and reduce the costs of the busing system by cutting the number of schools that students can apply to and still be eligible to ride the bus, supporters told the news source. Under the new plan, elementary school and middle school students can still apply for any school with openings, but, depending on the school, families may be responsible for transportation.

The school district spends approximately $40 million to transport about 18,000 students, and its per-student transportation costs are high compared with other urban Midwestern school districts, according to the Associated Press. Cost estimates for the new plan range from a dip of $4.7 million to an increase of $3.8 million, depending on how bus patterns shift. Officials said efficiencies in the new plan should cause per-student costs to fall, even if more students end up getting rides, the news source reports.

Letters were mailed recently to parents of students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade who may be affected by the new plan. School officials said that they want families to have plenty of time to deal with any bus service changes, particularly with the January deadline for the 2016-17 school selection process approaching, according to the Associated Press.

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