After opposition greeted a suggestion to save up to three-quarters of a million dollars by cutting bus service to most “option schools” – including Louisa Boren STEM and Pathfinder K-8s in West Seattle – Seattle Public Schools is looking at other options too. The School Board spent almost two hours Tuesday hearing and talking about possible ways to save money on transportation; it was a “work session,” so no decisions were made. District staff said the underlying problem is that the state funding for school transportation falls short, so fixing that would mean cuts and changes wouldn’t be necessary, but that’s up to the Legislature and Governor.
(STARS is a state-funding formula.)
Each bus needed costs the district $102,000. Much of the transportation the district offers, it was noted, is not legally required; they could cut back on eligibility, but then they’d be getting less compensation. One possible way to save, district-wide: Group schools in three start-time “tiers” rather than the current two, meaning fewer buses would be needed; that could save $3 million to $5 million, staff believes. One board member said that wouldn’t be simple, recalling the difficulty of getting to the current two tiers. District staff also noted the possibility of unintended consequences – the current two-tier timing means more money has to be spent chartering buses for sports transportation.
Big changes would likely not be possible until the 2022-2023 school year, staff acknowledged, but for next year they could make some money-saving tweaks such as adjusting routes and walk zones, or offering more ORCA cards for older students to use Metro buses.
WHAT’S NEXT: School board members were asked to let staff know what they’re interested in pursuing; the topic will be brought back during a budget work session next week. West Seattle/South Park rep Leslie Harris asked Superintendent Denise Juneau if option-school principals’ request for a meeting with staff was being addressed; Juneau said she believed two members of her staff were “setting up some sort of meeting.” Meantime, though work sessions don’t have public-comment periods, you can comment via email – email@example.com.