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Parents Press to Get School Buses Back on the Road : Transportation: District officials say they had to cut the service as part of the budget crunch, but agree to reinstate it if parents pay the cost.


MONROVIA — A group of Monrovia parents are clamoring for the school district to bring back the buses that ferry children to and from school--even if they have to pay for the rides.

Monrovia Unified eliminated its school busing program in June, which will save up to $200,000 annually. But the district failed to provide families with alternatives. Only after parents crowded into a special school board meeting late last month to discuss transportation and safety, the district began to look into other options, such as a parent-pay system.

"We have no alternatives; it puts us in a real bind," said Monrovia parent Cindy High, who has two children in elementary school.

Louise Taylor, Monrovia Unified's superintendent, said the district will conduct a survey this month to see whether parents would be willing to pay for elementary school buses.

"If it covers cost of transportation, we'll be more than happy to provide it," Taylor said.

But the survey won't be complete until late September or early October, so when school starts today, many small children will be walking to school or trying to cadge rides from friends or family.

"Safety obviously is going be a major concern for every person in our community with children on the street," said Frances Cash, president of the school board.

Chris Lizardo, president of the Monrovia-Duarte PTA Council, said poor families probably will suffer the most because they often have no private transportation. She fears this will keep students home in bad weather.

But Lizardo praised Taylor's efforts to mediate a solution and says the district has kept PTA members informed.

"I think they're really stuck between a rock and a hard spot; Dr. Taylor has really gone out and tried to get input from the community," Lizardo said.

Taylor conceded that eliminating school buses leaves parents in a jam, but says there just wasn't any other place to cut this year's budget. Monrovia has already raised class sizes and cut custodians, and it eliminated high school and middle school busing in 1991-92.

Monrovia has carved $2.6 million out of its budget since 1991. The budget for 1993-94 is $18 million, Taylor said.

Monrovia officials say they anticipate that paid busing would cost less than $1 a day. Proposed annual fees are $150 for one child; $200 for two children and $250 for three or more children.

Taylor said the district would waive fees for families who are on Medicare or welfare, about one-quarter of the 10,072-member school district. But the superintendent added that even some poor families have expressed their willingness to pay for part of the cost.

Meanwhile, Taylor said the district has set up a safety advisory committee and met with Monrovia Police to set up safe routes and escorted walking groups.

Parents have claimed that Dial-A-Ride and Foothill Transit, which runs local buses, won't allow children under 10 to ride alone.

But Tina Raymond, a spokeswoman for Foothill Transit, said there is no policy prohibiting children from riding alone. The local Dial-A-Ride, called Monrovia Transit, said it will not pick up students younger than 12.

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