The El Campo ISD board of trustees and administration continue to look into providing busing for all students possibly by the spring semester.
Currently, 1,200 or a third of the district’s 3,600 students, are eligible to ride the bus while 2,400 live within two miles of the campus they attend making them ineligible.
The board cut back on student transportation beginning in the 2011-2012 school year. Recently the need to purchase more buses and a lack of drivers with a required commercial drivers license (CDL) were cited as the main hold up to providing busing for all students.
“We can use buses we already have to get it rolling. I saw kids walking home in Friday’s rain. It was disheartening. Drivers are a big issue, but I think we can overcome that,” Trustee Greg Anderson said.
Trustees discussed creating satellite stops for students living within the two-mile radius.
Ideas discussed included a pilot program beginning with one or two satellite stops, that would eventually build up to the original four proposed, and adding bus drivers and buses as they become available to giving the 850 students participating in the free and reduced lunch program who live within the two-mile radius special consideration for eligibility.
Trustee Dennis Rawlings said the problem with pilot programs is they can go away.
“I don’t want to get people’s hopes up and then have it stop,” he said.
Rawlings wanted to see a plan with more staying power.
“We have to decide are we going to do this or not,” he said.
Trustees and Transportation Director Mark Freeman discussed changing existing routes by adding bus riders to routes where the buses run half full thus eliminating some of the need for more buses and qualified drivers.
Superintendent Kelly Waters brought the board information from a Region III survey regarding area districts that pick up students inside a two-mile radius of a campus. Out of 15 districts polled, five did not. Only four districts who picked up students within a two-mile radius of a campus used satellite stops.
The board asked Freeman to bring location ideas for the satellite stops, an assessment of the district’s bus fleet and more information about recruitment, training and driver pay to the regular meeting in September.