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Fixing the bus breakdown: Funding changes leaves borough looking for transportation solutions

Voices of the Peninsula

Posted: Monday, October 16, 2006

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is motivated to make its transportation system both safe and highly efficient so as not to draw money away from the general funds available for instruction. While this year’s transportation start-up did not run as smoothly as we would have liked, we have considered it a lesson learned. A task force met to analyze the old and new transportation routes; the task force set procedures in place to assist in a smoother transition when necessary changes must be made in the future.

1. A brief summary of school bus transportation funding:

During the 2003-04 school year the Alaska Legislature changed the way student transportation was funded. Instead of funding the actual cost of routes, as had previously been done, they based funding on a dollar amount per student. The new student transportation funding method was not adequate for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. The method was sufficient for densely populated urban districts; many rural districts do not offer student transportation.

2. What has changed?

Previously local bus routing was completed by the contract agent; this year, the District has assumed that responsibility. The goal is to reduce transportation expenses, increase efficiency, and eliminate costly “special deals” that did not follow guidelines. The transportation department is using computer software designed to plot student home address along with the street maps for the local area. School bus stops were assigned along the bus routes so that more community drop points would be used and fewer door-to-door stops would be necessary.

Why make the changes?

School districts in the state of Alaska are not required by federal or state law to offer bus transportation to regular education students. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District does not use local tax dollars to fund school bus transportation.

The cost of transportation exceeds State funding and the District has been faced with making a decision: subsidize transportation using general funds or find ways to reduce the cost of transportation.

4. What is the process for filing a concern?

All parties wishing to voice a concern should contact the school district transportation department. Requests for new bus stops and changes to current stops will be reviewed by a team of transportation officials. Guideline standards are used when establishing and relocating bus stops. These guidelines are available for review on the school district’s website at http://www.kpbsd.k12.ak.us/departments/planning_and_operations/pupil_transportation.htm. In decisions where the safety of students is of concern, a safety review committee will visit the stop in question to consider the request.

It is the intent of the transportation department to address all concerns and notify individuals on the status of their request. We appreciate the time, effort, and assistance given to correct oversights in the bus routes. We ask for your cooperation in making the necessary adjustments; please contact Nan Spooner at 714-8824 with a reminder if your concern has not been addressed.

Glen Szymoniak is the assistant superintendent of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.



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