Education

Wichita names schools that could lose bus service

Some Wichita school district bus routes would be eliminated or service reduced under a plan that re-evaluates hazardous-route criteria. (March 24, 2016)
Some Wichita school district bus routes would be eliminated or service reduced under a plan that re-evaluates hazardous-route criteria. (March 24, 2016) File photo

Twenty-two Wichita schools would eliminate some or all of the buses that transport students who live within 2.5 miles of the schools under a plan being considered by district leaders.

The plan to more strictly enforce the district’s policy, presented to school board members on Monday, would cut the number of students receiving hazardous-route rides by nearly 60 percent next year – from 3,711 to 1,526.

Nine elementary schools and one middle school would lose all their hazardous-route buses: Allen, Beech, Cessna, Cleaveland, College Hill, Franklin, Gardiner, Griffith, McLean and Coleman. Students living within 2.5 miles of those schools would no longer receive bus service and would have to walk or find rides to school.

Twelve schools – nine elementary and three middle schools – would lose at least some of their hazardous-route bus service: Buckner, Earhart, Enders, Enterprise, Gammon, Minneha, Pleasant Valley Elementary, Seltzer, White, Brooks, Pleasant Valley Middle and Wilbur.

Twelve other schools – including Heights High, Northeast Magnet High and the new Southeast High, which will open this fall near 129th Street East and Pawnee – would continue to offer hazardous-route bus service because there are no safe walking paths to those schools.

Fabian Armendariz, director of transportation, said the district’s hazardous-route policy was established more than four decades ago. Over time, the city has added sidewalks, crosswalks and other improvements, but routes were rarely dropped or even re-evaluated, he said.

In coming weeks, board members are expected to look more closely at the proposal, which also calls for changing start times at some K-8 schools, middle schools and special programs.

Wichita, the state’s largest school district, transports nearly 18,000 students by bus, at a cost of about $27 million a year.

The biggest chunk of those students – more than 6,200 – attend neighborhood schools but live more than 2.5 miles away. About 4,700 students are transported to magnet schools or programs such as International Baccalaureate, and 1,680 qualify for bus service through special education.

The state or federal government reimburses the district most of what it costs to transport students who live more than 2.5 miles from school. It is up to local school boards to determine whether they also provide transportation under hazardous conditions, such as cases where students would have to walk across busy roads or intersections without crosswalks.

Suzanne Perez Tobias: 316-268-6567, @suzannetobias

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