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School Board Looks At Phasing Out More Busing Over Five Years

— The plan adopted by San Diego Unified School Board members could phase out most busing not mandated by federal law. It is expected to save the district millions.

Most children that use optional transportation attend magnet schools or use San Diego’s school choice program to opt out of neighborhood schools. Their parents have been vocally opposed to the cuts.

Board members asked staff to draw up a two-year plan to phase out the cuts in a May meeting. Staff said a five-year plan would allow for better planning.

Drawing up a five-year plan to reduce busing will give the district an opportunity to see how other transportation cuts already approved for next year play out, according to Phil Stover, the district's deputy superintendent for business.

Earlier this year the board approved $7.85 million in transportation cuts, which will end busing for more than 4,000 students next school year. Under a five-year plan the reductions voted on Tuesday would be phased in beginning in the 2013-14 school year.

Board members voting for the measure said a longer timeline creates opportunities to use open seats on buses that will remain for federally mandated transportation.

“If there’s a bus that’s going to a certain part of the city and there are opportunities through the school choice program for someone to go to a particular school that that would still be offered and the more efficient we are, the more we would find those holes," said Trustee John Lee Evans. "Because we are not doing away with choice.”

The motion passed with only Trustee Kevin Beiser voting against it.

The plan would also protect transportation for certain dedicated magnet schools, which are schools where there is no automatic neighborhood enrollment.

In a separate vote, trustees passed an increase in transportation fees for families that are able to pay. It will cost $420 per year for the first rider in a family. The district will charge a reduced fee for the second student and nothing for any additional students.

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