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El Paso County Colorado District 49

D49 Seeks to Reduce Transportation Costs

District 49 may reduce transportation costs in order to finance $1.2 million for modular classrooms and fund the new technology plan. “Tough decisions must be made,” said Dr. Ron Wynn, interim superintendent of D 49, at the March 8 transportation meeting at Falcon High School. “We are very concerned about our students. Schools are getting more competitive every day and we can do better than we are doing today.”Gene Logas, assistant superintendent, defined school district boundaries, which encompass 133 square miles. Logas said buses that transport children to and from school serve a large part of the area. He pointed out it is not mandatory for the district to supply transportation, with the exception of some special needs students.However, D 49 has been providing transportation for regular school days, along with activities, such as sports, music and drama. “The state reimbursed the district $536,423 for the 2003-2004 school year,” Logas said. “We spent $2,324,726, leaving $1,788,303 that had to come out of operating revenue.”The proposal that Logas presented would save the district $420,000, and $105,000 would be saved by eliminating routes on the east side of the district, and another $315,000 could be saved by doing away with bus service for the west side of the district.In prior years, Logas said it was “as the crow flies” that determined who walked and who had bus service. This year, D 49 will join most of the other Colorado school districts that use the “bus service index.” The index works by assigning points to each student on an assessment basis of where he or she lives. Would the student have to cross a major arterial to walk to school? How does construction, poor visibility and other circumstances affect safety issues for the walking students? “We believe this is a fair and equitable approach to determine who receives transportation service,” Logas said.The proposal increases the walking distance for students. High school students would be required to walk up to 2.5 miles before they would be eligible for busing; middle school students 2 miles and elementary students 1.5 miles. For those who were eligible for bus service, they would be required to walk up to .5 miles to centralized stops. “Approximately 63 percent of transportation services will remain unchanged,” Logas said.For students who attend Falcon High and middle schools, 168 stops will not change. Sixty-seven stops and 166 students will be impacted. Two bus runs would be eliminated completely, affecting 32 Falcon High School students. Changes will occur for 78 of 171 bus stops for Falcon Elementary students, and 183 students will walk the .5 miles to school.The proposal states that 21 out of 41 stops for Woodmen Hills Elementary would be affected, with 143 students walking the .5 miles to the bus stop. Twenty-seven stops at Meridian Ranch Elementary are scheduled for changes as well. Logas emphasized that no student, regardless of the distance to school, would be required to cross Meridian Road, Highway 24, Falcon Highway, Curtis Road or Woodmen Road. The remaining changes affect the west side of the district.Several Falcon residents were concerned that the east side was “once again” paying for the growth along the Powers corridor. Cindy Hardin, supervisor of transportation for D 49, and Logas told the audience that the district doesn’t view the issues as a rural versus city argument. “We are one district,” Logas said.Sandy Smith, a Falcon resident, questioned the “fair and equitable” statements by addressing the differences in safety issues between the rural and city. “A half-mile can be a long way when the kids can encounter snakes and other wild animals, no sidewalks and as many acres between homes,” Smith said. Her comments were met with applause.Another unidentified attendee said he is tired of paying for new schools on the west side when his children are required to attend school in old and outdated buildings. Barbara Day, D 49 assistant superintendent of curriculum, said, “We are sitting in an area built with the last bond issue. The east side of the district actually received more of the monies than the west in the last bond issue. The district built Woodmen Hills Elementary, Meridian Ranch Elementary and made significant improvements to Falcon Elementary and Falcon High School.” She also addressed rural versus city safety issues. “People on the west side have as many arguments as the east. The constant construction, the heavy traffic, pedophiles are all safety issues, too,” said Day. “We are doing the best we can.”Wynn thanked the approximately 90 people in attendance and reminded them that the school district needs their support. “We may go back to the voters again this fall,” said Wynn. “Every year we wait, it just gets worse. Space is a big issue, and the modulars are an expensive and, at best, a temporary solution.”

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