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Douglas County students will have to pay for bus rides

9:14 PM, May 18, 2010   |    comments
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The Douglas County School Board voted 5-0 Tuesday night to approve a 50 cent per ride transportation fee starting next school year.

The decision will affect about 17,000 students that ride the bus this year.

The district hopes to raise $2 million with this program.

The buses will have Zonar GPS units to track student ridership. Each student will have a card or a ZPass that will track their use of the bus.

Douglas County Schools will have to pay $221,000 in three equal installments over the next three years to fully implement the GPS tracking technology.

That cost covers the system as a whole.

"Cost per bus will likely vary, as some may require more updating than others," said Dianna Miguez, communication specialist for Douglas County Schools.

Families who qualify for the National Free and Reduced Lunch Program will not be charged the fee. Students in the Individualized Education Program that requires transportation will also not be charged.

The school board debated the issue for three months until voting Tuesday.

Parents will get a quarterly statement and the district was looking at implementing the GPS system over the last two years anyway for safety reasons.

"The fees are going to help us maintain the current level of service," Steve Herzog, interim superintendent of Douglas County Schools, said. "We've cut almost $80 million over the last four years and I think it was a case of we have to spread the challenges around. This is one area we don't have subsidies effective to pay for it."

Parents like James Johnson say it will be a burden.

"Seems a little expensive to me," Johnson said. "I have four kids so that would cost me $4 a day."

David DiCarlo commended the school board for taking this action.

"I'd pay double that just so you know," he said. "I'd pay probably three times that to get my kid to school, so my wife and I can get to work on time."

Douglas County Schools are facing $31 million reductions for the 2010-11 school year. At nearly $16 million, the district says transportation costs make up a large portion of the budget.

Jefferson County, the largest district in the state, does not have a transportation fee in the next year's budget.

"Jeffco's school and community budget workgroups convened this fall," said Melissa Reeves, Jefferson County Schools news media specialist. "One of the suggestions from those working groups was to charge for transportation to generate revenue for the district. At this time, bus fees are not reflected in the proposed 2010-11 or 2011-12 budgets. However, the budget has yet to finalized by the Jefferson County Board of Education. Jeffco's budget must be approved by June 30."

Denver, the second largest in the state, is not discussing it as an option.

Adams 12 is considering charging students up to $10 a month to ride the bus. Twelve thousand students ride the bus. If implemented, the fee would generate $380,000. A hearing for that is set for June 2.

Cherry Creek Schools have increased the walking distance for middle school and high school students as well as changed start and end times for pick up, saving the district $1.6 million.

Tustin Amole, a spokeswoman for Cherry Creek Schools, said the district did not consider a transportation fee.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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