Some parents object to West Chester schools’ plan to cut busing costs

Dan Hardy

To save the West Chester Area School District a million dollars a year on transportation, some students will have to start the school day earlier next fall and many will have to walk farther to bus stops.
At one middle school, pupils will ride with high schoolers for the first time.
School board members and administrators defend the changes, approved this week, as needed to conserve money for classroom services. Some parents wonder whether the district is putting financial considerations ahead of children’s welfare.
Let the belt-tightening – and the debate over what to cut – begin again.
Even after cutting millions of dollars this school year, the 11,817-student district is projecting a $6 million budget gap for next fiscal year, which will start July 1.
So the board voted unanimously Tuesday to eliminate some buses and fill others closer to capacity. School times were changed, more than 900 bus stops were tentatively eliminated, and some nonpublic-school routes that the district covers were merged with those of public school students. More than 950 children who walk less than a tenth of a mile to a bus stop would have a longer walk under the changes.

The West Chester School District plans to spend $203,848.400 for nearly 12,000 students during the 2010-2011 school year ($16,987.37 per student). Madison spent $15,241 per student during the 2009-2010 school year.