A divided school board approved almost $670,000 more in cuts to balance the budget of the Downey Unified School District this week.
The cuts include $150,500 in the transportation budget. The board voted 4 to 3 to increase walking distances to a mile for elementary children so fewer students would have to be bused. Some board members wanted to increase the walking distance even more, while others opposed the drop in bus service entirely. In addition, the board voted 5 to 2 to stagger the starting times of elementary schools to cut in half the number of buses needed. About 10 bus drivers will lose their jobs as a result. The district also will raise the transportation fees it charges on sports, band, drill and pep teams.
Parent Louise Fiorillo complained that the cuts will force students at Alameda Elementary to cross busy streets unassisted and walk through a business area that includes a bar, a liquor store and a sanitarium. "These are elements of danger our children are going to be exposed to," she said.
The board also voted 4 to 3 to cut money used to give elementary teachers planning time.
Including previous cuts, the board has trimmed close to $2 million from its $60-million budget.