Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Some to Pay for Transportation Next Year Money Crunch Forces District to Cut Service for about 400

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Some to Pay for Transportation Next Year Money Crunch Forces District to Cut Service for about 400

Article excerpt

A financial crunch has brought the end of free busing for some students in the Webster Groves School District.

For about half of the 800 students riding buses hired by the district, bus transportation will be an option their parents will have to pay for next school year. The basic cost will be $325 a year, with a 20 percent discount for each additional child transported.

The district has an enrollment of 4,478.

Linda Young, president of the School Board, said the district had investigated ways to pare the budget for two years, and this method was the most painless.

"This decision is not a spur-of-the-moment one," Young said this week in a telephone interview. "There has been much soul-searching."

Young said when it came to a question of free transportation or free books, books won out. "There are other avenues for transportation," she said.

The School Board made the decision unanimously last week, although many parents opposed the move. The final budget has not been adopted.

Some parents at the meeting talked of safety concerns in dropping students off for school.

Jerry Knight, assistant superintendent, said the board decided to reduce busing to what the law required "so we can remain solvent. We are looking at the long-range picture."

He said finances "are going to be that tight" that the $130,000 the district would save was crucial.

The district is required by state law to transport students who live more than 3 1/2 miles from school. That amounts to about 15 to 20 students. In addition, the district transports 90 black students to primarily white schools from Clark and Edgar Road schools to achieve integration within the district.

Some 430 Voluntary Transfer Students from outside the district will continue to be bused to Webster schools in a program paid for by the state.

According to Knight, state law allowed a district - but did not require it - to transport students who lived more than a mile from school. The state reimburses a district for this service. The district already charges some students $46 a quarter for bus transportation. Free transportation goes to high school students who live more than 3 1/2 miles from school, middle school students who live more than 2 miles away and elementary pupils who live more than 1 mile away. …

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