San Luis Coastal won't bus kids to schools outside their neighborhoods

The San Luis Coastal Unified School District will cease bus service for students who attend schools other than their designated neighborhood school.

In all, 104 students will have to find another way to school next year.

However, the 231 students who take the bus to attend one of the district’s two alternative schools, Pacheco and Teach Elementary, will continue to have school buses available to them. Those schools do not have specific attendance boundaries and rely on students from throughout the district for enrollment.

Special education students also will not be affected.

“The hope is that stopping the other intradistrict busing will allow us more efficient use of our drivers and buses to cut times for neighborhood students as well as possibly help bring back additional routes that were cut,” said Ryan Pinkerton, assistant superintendent of business services.

Students have the choice of attending any school within the district, but the district is not legally required to provide transportation, Pinkerton said.

The change comes after trustees already cut five positions from its transportation department, eliminated high school buses and reduced routes from 28 to 16 last April as part of larger district-wide budget cuts.

Pinkerton said that some students who attend neighborhood schools are now riding the bus for 45 minutes instead of the 10 minutes it would normally take to get to school.

By no longer providing intradistrict busing, bus routes that were eliminated will be added back to make rides to neighborhood schools shorter, Pinkerton said.

Reasons for not attending a neighborhood school vary. Some families who have moved want their child to continue at the same school they started. Others base it on preference of programs offered or on where they work.

What does a bus ride look like for an intradistrict transfer? A Morro Bay student attending a school in San Luis Obispo first boards the bus at 7:44 a.m. and changes buses twice before arriving at the final destination at 8:15 a.m.

Pinkerton said the district is also trying to find a way to bring back high school transportation.

The 2013-14 school year was the first that students at San Luis Obispo High School and Morro Bay High School were required to rely on public transportation to get to school.

The only high school students being transported by school bus are those living in Los Osos and attending Morro Bay High because of disruptions to the public transit system by the sewer work being done, Pinkerton said.

In San Luis Obispo, the closest public bus route has students walking from City Hall on Palm Street to school on San Luis Drive, about a 20-minute walk across town.

“It is not ideal but is working,” Pinkerton said. “Kids are getting to school. But if we can add those routes back, we will.”