With the deadline only three days away, more than 5,000 students in the Spokane Public Schools district haven’t registered to ride the school bus next year.
For the district, that’s a lot of missing information as it attempts to plan routes for almost 7,000 children.
For parents, failure to register could mean driving your child to class for the first two weeks of school.
“Early registration allows us to work on routing – it helps us keep the operation efficient,” said Mark Sterk, the district’s director of safety, risk management and transportation.
“Registering to ride also helps parents plan their day,” Sterk added. “They know what time the kids are picked up and what time they are dropped off, so it helps with family planning.”
It also helps the district plan routes for its 250 buses.
“It helps us keep the operation efficient, which is one of the things that (the state superintendent) grades us on and approves our funding on,” Sterk added.
Parents who fail to register their children by Saturday may still do so by Aug. 15, but can’t be guaranteed immediate placement on the bus.
According to Sterk, that’s because late registrants may overload some buses and change the duration of rides.
Route stops are unaffected by late registrants, Sterk said.
“We concentrated on putting stops at locations that were as efficient as possible and served as many students as possible in each neighborhood. We tried to eliminate stops that were dangerous for a bus to navigate,” Sterk said.
Safety is another concern in plotting routes.
“Kids sometimes cause problems at a stop and we need to move it, or we have had people of concern living to close to a stop and we have moved those stops as well,” Sterk said.
In order to ride the district’s regular buses, students must live inside their school’s attendance area, but outside the established walk boundary – a zone extending around the school at a radius of 1 mile, as the crow flies.
Students within the zone have to get themselves to school, sometimes walking well over a mile to do so if their routes are less direct.
“That’s a common problem,” said Dani Rachels, a transportation specialist with the district. “I can only explain to them that they’re not in the eligible busing area.”
Moreover, the district is reimbursed by the state only for eligible riders.
Rachels noted if the district adopted a 1-mile boundary based on the actual paths students walk – instead of the current radius method – it would need to purchase at least 200 more buses.
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