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Arcadia Schools Listen to Parents, Make Changes in New Bus Service

February 05, 1989|ELIZABETH LU | Times Staff Writer

ARCADIA — In response to parent complaints received after the school board ended bus service for which a fee was charged, officials are fine-tuning a free, but more limited, transportation system.

The Arcadia Unified School District board voted in December to discontinue the bus service after being notified by state officials that school districts are prohibited from charging for such service.

The state directive was based on a Ventura County appellate court ruling last June that public schools that charge fees for busing violate the state Constitution.

Unable to afford free bus service district-wide, the school board voted to discontinue service for high school students. Free bus service is offered to junior high students who live more than 2.5 miles from school, and to elementary students who live more than 1.25 miles from school.

Distance Limit Reduced

The distance limit for those in kindergarten was originally set at 1.25 miles but was reduced to .75 miles, said Supt. Stephen Goldstone. Bus transportation is still provided free to special education students and for school activities.

Under the new system, about half of the 700 students who were paying $59 a school quarter for bus service must now walk to school or find other means of transportation. The majority of the district's 7,600 students walk to school or join car pools, Goldstone said.

Last week, some parents contacted school officials and argued for bus service for young children who must walk to school or find other transportation under the new system, Goldstone said.

A few insisted that they live far enough from school to qualify for free bus service and asked school officials to remeasure the distance between their homes and their children's schools.

Administrators have "made some individual changes when people have protested the mileage" and there is information to support their claims, Goldstone said.

For example, Diane Swartzbaugh's daughter had been told earlier last week that as a first-grader living less than 1.25 miles from school, she was not eligible to ride the bus. Now it has been determined that she is.

Swartzbaugh said that although a straight line between her house and her daughter's school may be 1.25 miles, the actual walking distance is more circuitous, and therefore longer.

"It's pretty far for a small child to walk," said Swartzbaugh. Because the family does not have two cars, Swartzbaugh has had to ask friends to drive her daughter to school.

School officials are also reviewing cases in which parents are asking for bus service based on safety reasons, said Goldstone. The district buses students regardless of distance requirements if children must cross major intersections or other hazards in order to walk to school, he said.

"Buses were not full last week," Goldstone said, but he expects ridership to increase as more students decide to take advantage of the free service. "If we discover later on that we have empty buses, we will adjust."

Dial-a-Ride

Dial-a-Ride, a private company which contracts with the city to provide door-to-door car or van rides, is also in the process of adjusting to the district's new school bus program.

The company, which charges 75 cents for each one-way ride, had anticipated that cutbacks in the district's school bus service would boost its ridership by 100 to 150 students a day, said Terry Crouch, a manager for Dial-a-Ride.

"So far this week there has been an increase, but not as dramatic as we thought it would be," said Crouch. She said the actual increase is closer to 30.

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