Parents upset about cuts to EBR bus routes
BATON ROUGE- There's a truce over budgets and bus routes for some parents in South Baton Rouge, but they still want more.
The school district faces a $39 million budget deficit. Last month, the school board voted to save $850,000 by cutting dozens of direct bus routes for gifted and magnet students. Parents are angry saying that would leave their children to ride routes that last two hours or more.
The superintendent met with those parents this morning and one board member has even ridden some of the district's longest routes to get a feel for their concerns.
"I just want to see for myself how the bus rides are from some of the farther parts of the parish, going to some schools that are not neighborhood schools," said Board Vice President Tarvald Smith.
Parents of students who do attend schools outside of their attendance zone because of special programs have threatened pulling their kids from the district and starting a new district if the cuts stick. Board Member Connie Bernard, who is a district parent, understands their frustrations.
She said, "Transportation is a big issue. It's a large parish it's very difficult to get kids from one end to the other in a timely manner, when you're adding long bus rides for children, it takes away from their academic day."
And the district understands that, but still has a budget hole to keep in mind.
District Spokesman Chris Trahan said, "The reality is we are facing a fiscal budget shortfall, so we're looking at everything."
On the morning bus route, one parent said she didn't mind the drive time.
Diedra Pierre said, "The only, how would you say, the adjustment I have, is that the kids in middle school and high school they get up so early to get on the bus, but in so far as the complaint of getting there, it's not a problem."
Smith hasn't found one yet either, and hopes parents and the district can avoid one.
"If you're at a dedicated gifted site, thanks for supporting East Baton Rouge, but weigh that against the bus ride, the education that they are receiving at school," said Smith.
At Thursday night's board meeting, members announced the creation of transportation taskforce that will look into the entire district's busing program. Parents say they're planning to do their own review of the routes' efficiencies and present the results to the district.