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San Diego High School Students Struggle To Get To School

Audio

Aired 6/14/10

Thousands of San Diego City students rely on their parents OR the yellow school bus to get to class. But other students are not so fortunate. They say just finding a way to get to school is a biggest challenge. However, one high school principal is trying to change that.

— Thousands of San Diego city students rely on their parents or the yellow school bus to get to class. But other students are not so fortunate. They say just finding a way to get to school is the biggest challenge. However, one high school principal is trying to change that.

It's 6:30 in morning. The air is cool. The sky is gray. Eighteen-year-old Jose Osuna throws on his backpack and heads to school.

The football player is wearing jeans and a blue-hooded sweatshirt.

His walk begins near a housing project in Barrio Logan, located south of downtown San Diego.

“I live in these apartments right here,” Osuna says as he points to the housing project. “Most people think it's the ghetto. It's a place that I call home.”

Barrio Logan is a working-class community near the Coronado bridge. Most teenagers who live here go to San Diego High School in downtown San Diego.

Osuna used to walk to campus every day but it started getting a little too dangerous. There have been several times in which Osuna has been confronted by homeless people.

“They’ve said racial things to me, but I'm just trying to get to school. I'm not trying to have a bad day.”

Osuna doesn't own a bike or car. His only option is to take the San Diego Trolley or bus. But he can't afford a pass.

And Osuna is not alone. Hundreds of students at San Diego High School do not have a cheap, safe and reliable way to get to school. The problem is so bad that many teens are chronically tardy. Others skip school all together.

San Diego High School is surrounded by high-rises, freeways and homeless people.

The campus itself is divided into six smaller schools. Conseulo Manriquez is principal of the School of the Arts.

This is Manriquez’s first year as principal. The first thing she noticed was students weren't showing up for school. Others were coming to her with scary stories. Manriquez recalls how one of her students was mugged while walking to school.

“This was six blocks from here,” Manriquez says. “I'm enraged that my students have to face this every single day.”

Manriquez decided to establish a bus pass scholarship for about 80 of her students. To apply, students had to write an essay. Manriquez wasn't sure what to expect. A few weeks later, she was flooded with applications.

Each story had a common theme. The majority of her students come from low-income families and could not afford a monthly transit pass. Transit passes cost students $36 every month. A bus pass scholarship for half a year saves them more than $200.

San Diego Unified School District provides free busing only to certain groups of students. Those students are enrolled in special district or federal programs. Others are in special education and magnet schools.

Daniel Gilbreth is transportation manager for for the school district. He says the district buses about 18,000 students every day. There are 133,000 students enrolled in the district. Gilbreth says San Diego Unified would be swimming in red ink if every child got a free ride on the yellow school bus.

“It would just be too costly,” Gilbreth said. “It would double or triple the number of buses we use.”

But Manriquez believes the district's priorities are misplaced. She says it's even more costly to deny a child transportation because it contributes to low-attendance and high dropout rates.

She says she will continue to fight for her students. “I am responsible for the education of these students. I at least have to try.”

Manriquez worries about next school year. The public donations that fund her bus pass scholarships have all been used up.

Comments

Avatar for user 'MauraLarkins'

MauraLarkins | June 15, 2010 at 8:17 a.m. ― 4 years, 3 months ago

If we want an educated populace, we should make sure kids can get to school. I think bus passes would be more worthwhile than many of the textbooks that schools are forced by law to pay for. It's a boondoggle for the textbook companies, and often the textbooks are not used by teachers. I remember that I used to have one expensive social studies text for every two or three students. This was the bizarre legal requirement that schools had to fulfill. My kids had trouble reading the books even when they could see the print. Imagine how impossible it was for them to read when they were craning their necks to see a book that was placed halfway between their desk and the desk next to them. Those books cost a lot of money and were almost useless.

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Avatar for user 'RyanGray'

RyanGray | June 15, 2010 at 10:53 a.m. ― 4 years, 3 months ago

Good comment, Maura.

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Avatar for user 'Dewey'

Dewey | June 15, 2010 at 1:40 p.m. ― 4 years, 3 months ago

So where are the cops and school district security in all this? A mostly-grown kid needs bussing just to go six blocks because the cops are too lazy or indifferent to do their jobs? What on earth do they think we are paying them for? If main thoroughfares had police presence, a lot of kids could take a relatively short hike to them and be basically escorted to school, and troublemaking vagrants would stay away or be caught. Information needs to be gathered about where trouble spots are. Get the senior citizen patrols out, retrain "meter maids" and put them to preserving the safety of our schoolkids! If vagrants are harassing a kid who is big enough to play football, they are harassing everybody else, so get the cops out of the donut shops or wherever they are goofing off. What is more important than this?

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Avatar for user 'oring'

oring | June 18, 2010 at 11:24 p.m. ― 4 years, 3 months ago

This story really breaks my heart. What can we do to assure that all San Diego children get a quality education?

As a grad student at UCSD, I believe part of the answer lies in connecting the UCSD campus to the rest of the city in a more direct way.

If students don't even get to their high school classes, they don't have a hope of getting to college. Meanwhile, UCSD is totally disconnected from all of this.

Can we imagine ways of connecting these two very separate worlds though mentorship programs or the like?

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