Seattle Public Schools transportation changes set for vote this week

January 20, 2014 at 3:30 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle schools | 25 Comments

Potentially major changes in school transportation are proceeding somewhat quietly down the road to a vote at this week’s Seattle School Board meeting. A local mom suggested we write about this to increase the chances people know before it’s too late to even try to comment. The proposed changes came out at the last board meeting before Christmas, and are up for a vote this Wednesday (January 22nd). They are summarized on the district website here, including these toplines:

The District is proposing to:

• End yellow bus transportation to option school students who live outside that school’s middle school attendance area
• Eliminate transportation to elementary school students who live outside that school’s attendance area
• Sunset any previous “grandfathering” of transportation that was allowed when the New Student Assignment Plan took effect in 2010 11.
• Standardize all yellow bus arrival times: 7:35 a.m., 8:25 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. Please note these are not start times for schools, but the arrival times for buses. Next fall’s school bell times will be set later this winter.

The district says these changes would save more than $3 million. For full details on the proposed changes, see this district document which color-codes exactly what’s been written into the policy and what’s been taken out. The school-by-school list of next year’s proposed bus arrival and departure times can be seen here; again, as noted above, those are not the same as the bell times; you can compare to the current list of arrival/departure times. In our area, Pathfinder K-8 stands to see the largest schedule change, since it’s one of five K-8s that would be moved to notably earlier arrival times – Pathfinder’s arrival time is proposed as 7:35 am, 25 minutes earlier than it is now.

SOMETHING TO SAY? E-mail schoolboard@seattleschools.org – contact info for West Seattle’s board rep Marty McLaren is on her page. The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting at board HQ in SODO is here.

25 Comments

  1. Has the district stated if bus routes will be assigned for Arbor Heights students who need to use Boren for the next two years?

    Comment by Gawdger — 3:58 pm January 20, 2014 #

  2. The district has also set up an email to aggregate comments on this issue: arrivaltimes@seattleschools.org

    We are a Pathfinder K8 family and we already struggle to get to school at the early hour we start (first bell at 8:15). It is hard to imagine starting an extra 20-30 minutes earlier. Kids will be waiting for buses in the dark well before 7 including little kids and kids with special needs (of which Pathfinder has a large population). From a safety perspective alone this seems like a bad idea.

    I also am in a neighborhood impacted by the boundary change and it sounds like this means that the families in our neighborhood who are supposedly grandfathered at our previous neighborhood school will no longer receive busing unless they drive or choose to change to our new school. Well played, SPS, in forcing families to make really difficult choices (especially in a neighborhood like mine where boundaries have been repeatedly tinkered with and that lacks a walkable neighborhood school).

    I also do not have a lot of faith that this will, in fact, save the district the $3 million they claim it will. They have a poor track record on transportation changes actually saving the money they claim it will. I am highly skeptical.

    I also think communication from the district has been incredibly poor on this proposal. I can’t help but think they were hoping they could slip this by and see if anyone objected and quietly pass this change. The fact that they have now created a special feedback email tells me they are getting a lot of pushback. If you have opinions, please write letters.

    Comment by kayo — 4:02 pm January 20, 2014 #

  3. Gawdger, they will have to bus the Arbor Heights kids to Boren because that is a temporary site while they rebuild. I think you should be fine unless you are not in the AH reference area. It is a long way from AH to Boren though. That will be a long two years. Worth it in the long run for AH though as they’ve had to put up with such an awful building for so long.

    Comment by kayo — 5:00 pm January 20, 2014 #

  4. Are APP kids still going to have Yellow Bus service for Middle and elementary school age in 2014?

    Comment by NW — 5:03 pm January 20, 2014 #

  5. Yes – APP will keep their bus service.

    Comment by Lynn — 6:58 pm January 20, 2014 #

  6. So, would this mean that if I have a 2nd grade elementary student who is going to attend APP at Fairmount Park she would be elligible for yellow bus service–but, if I apply for her younger sibling to also attend Kindergarten at FP, then the younger sibling would NOT be Elligble for yellow bus transportation (except for “space available”) because we live outside of the FB boundary area? Is this sort of arrangement addressed at all in this document, or am I just not seeing it?

    Comment by FP siblings — 6:59 pm January 20, 2014 #

  7. Any word on how this would affect, or not, door-to-door transportation (special needs busses)?

    Comment by Elyssa — 7:01 pm January 20, 2014 #

  8. I’m curious about whether the Seattle School District and the City DPD communicate with one another about transportation issues such as this. We live near near Morgan Junction, near an elementary school. The morning and afternoon traffic (parents dropping off or picking up their children) is already substantial. This is one of the areas DPD has designated as a potential “pedestrian zone”. How does that fit with parents whose children do not have bus transportation to school? Honestly, do any of the city’s various agencies communicate at all?!

    Comment by AP — 7:03 pm January 20, 2014 #

  9. FP Siblings,

    I think you’re correct in that scenario – the kindergartener would only be eligible for space-available transportation. There is no exception in the plan for APP siblings or for siblings of special ed students.

    Comment by Lynn — 7:36 pm January 20, 2014 #

  10. @Lynn,

    Thanks for the feedback. This seems problematic. I would think that there should be a clearer transportation plan for siblings who are granted enrollment at an out of attendence area school (through the open enrollment process) who through “choice” are attending a school that a sibling attends due to requiring services (any services) not available at their attendence area school.

    Historically, has advocacy to include this kind of exception been tried and denied many times before (ie losing battle…)?

    Comment by FP Siblings — 8:15 pm January 20, 2014 #

  11. I don’t think anyone has tried to insist on guaranteed transportation for APP siblings before – and I think it would be a losing battle. You can always enroll the sibling in your attendance area school.

    In reality, there will probably be space for the sibling on the APP bus.

    Comment by Lynn — 8:34 pm January 20, 2014 #

  12. Would ELL students that are outside of the designated ELL school be bussed?
    They might save some money if bus drivers didn’t sit and idle while they took their smoke breaks between routes… I pass 3 of them doing this each morning… maybe this schedule change their amount of idle time? Also, Gatewood school is constantly waiting for late buses to pick up kids at the end of school… I wonder if waiting for the bus will get better or worse?
    I wish SPS was more transparent about these big changes. They have my email (I did write it on my student’s registration forms). Why don’t they email parents about these things that will affect our kids?

    Comment by wsparent — 9:50 pm January 20, 2014 #

  13. True. SPS will have to bus the Kindergartener to the attendence area regardless since we’re outside the walk zone.

    Of course, the FP example is specific to my needs, but really regardless of why any kids are at the school they attend, would be nice if SPS just plans that siblings going to the same school everyday, from the same bus stop, are linked in transportation services even if just one qualifies for yellow bus service.

    Comment by FP Siblings — 10:20 pm January 20, 2014 #

  14. Another Pathfinder family here who cannot fathom an even earlier start. What the heck are they thinking? Do we need even more tired kids, rushed breakfasts and the potential for tardiness? Have they effectively outlined how this is going to save money? Please email the school board before Wednesday.

    Comment by BMC — 10:21 pm January 20, 2014 #

  15. Will high school students be given orca cards to attend a high school that is not their assigned neighborhood school?

    Comment by Lisa Youngs — 7:40 am January 21, 2014 #

  16. We are a Pathfinder family in Arbor Heights…one of many. My kids already wait IN THE DARK for a 7:30 bus that gets them to a 8:15 start time. If anything they should institute better bus times and roll transportation into a paid program…like free or discounted lunch. I’d rather pay for the big yellow bus than get my kids up at 6am and most likely be tardy anyway.

    As usual, our school district wants to make families suffer for their poor handling of funds.

    Comment by GK — 10:53 am January 21, 2014 #

  17. Take a look at the middle school boundaries as option school transportation cut offs too–Pathfinder would only get bused from the Madison service area and STEM kids only from Denny, which will be bizarre and cut of lots of STEM students that live closest to the school because of the previous boundary gerrymandering.

    Comment by vs — 11:15 am January 21, 2014 #

  18. Another concerned Pathfinder family here…I have already emailed the school board. If you have concerns, please do the same…the proposed new arrival time is just insane!!!!! Not to mention what it will mean for an earlier dismissal and families in need of childcare…

    Comment by JH — 11:34 am January 21, 2014 #

  19. I am a parent at Sanislo…We have the opposite problem of Pathfinder. Our current start time is 9:35…with this change it will move to almost 10am…School will let out at 4. So, I guess expecting elementary school age children to walk home from the bus stop, after 5pm, in the dark is acceptable? SPS, ARE YOU KIDDING ME????? When you changed our start time a couple years ago, we mobilized and pleaded for you to reconsider, arguing that the later start time would have a negative impact on our community. It did. Because of our demographic, we have many families that our forced to drop their kids off at as early as 8am. This is a huge safety issue, but some families are left without a choice because they cannot afford before school childcare, yet must be at work at an earlier time. Before the later start, our halls were filled with parents, talking to each other and saying to hello to the teachers and staff…now, when the bell rings, our halls are almost empty.

    Not only has SPS, once again, made a decision that lacks transparency, they have left little to no time for parents or schools to respond, much less be able to do anything about it….I feel I am constantly put into “reactive mode” when it comes to the decisions made by SPS about my child’s education. I don’t expect for the SPS to take every single person’s opinion into account before making a decision…but at least give the parents and schools the opportunity to come together and present collective input. The fact that this “vote” takes place tomorrow and that we were just informed on Friday (before a three day holiday) is well, SLIMY, lacks integrity and shows a total lack of disrespect to the staff and families. Shame on you SPS.

    Comment by juju — 12:14 pm January 21, 2014 #

  20. @AP,

    I think they are having great communication. It seems they follow the same MO. Trying their best to deny the public a chance to comment when making changes they know will be unpopular.

    Comment by Civik — 12:35 pm January 21, 2014 #

  21. Does this mean that if you attend PFinder but live in Arbor Heights there will no longer be bus transportation? I’m confused – what is yellow bus service.

    Comment by BMC — 4:28 pm January 21, 2014 #

  22. Please clarify – what does this mean: “End yellow bus transportation to option school students who live outside that school’s middle school attendance area”. My child doesn’t yet attend public school. Does it mean that if you live in Arbor Heights, there will no longer be bus transportation available to Pathfinder? Thank you

    Comment by CB — 4:41 pm January 21, 2014 #

  23. I’m not a parent, but it sounds as if more kids are being pushed onto public transportation – which is also being slashed, especially in Arbor Heights. Our horrible transportation options (for kids and adults alike) are making it incredibly difficult for many people to get to and from work, while simultaneously forcing many, many more cars on the road.

    Major FAIL, Seattle.

    Comment by anonyme — 8:01 am January 22, 2014 #

  24. I sent an email but I have little faith they actually pay attention. Every time I have sent an email I get a response but they obviously aren’t listening.

    It sounds to me like if you live in Arbor Heights you can’t take a bus to Pathfinder. Send an email to confirm though. (although I have no faith that the email you receive back will actually answer the question!)

    Comment by Bonnie — 8:13 am January 22, 2014 #

  25. @vs – I read the proposed changes to the yellow bus service the same as you. It seems that if the changes were approved, STEM students cod only get yellow bus service if they lived in the Denny MS geo-zone, and Pathfinder students could only get a bus if they lived in the Madison MS geo-zone.

    If this is an accurate interpretation of the proposal, approving it would be a big mistake and would negatively impact both schools. At STEM, 1/3 – 1/2 of the students are from the Madison MS geo-zone, and I guess the ratio is similar at Pathfinder. STEM was actually opened to eliviate overcrowding in the north end of WS, so now eliminating bus service for those families seems a bit like a bait and switch.
     
    We live in the Madison MS area and are over 2 miles from K-5 STEM. It is too far (and my 6 year old is too young) to walk.  And, K-5 STEM already starts later in the day, at 9:25am.  Yet, my work begins over an hour earlier.  Having bus service is sometimes the only way I can get to work on time, without paying additional funds for a before-school program or babysitting. 
     
    Not every family can afford the cost of extra care simply to make sure their child is able to get safely to school on time.  This is simply not worth the $3 million in savings that is supposed to come from eliminating busing.
     

    Comment by Ms. A — 5:01 pm January 22, 2014 #

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