(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Some families in Lewis-Palmer School District 38 (D38) are frustrated after the school board decided to eliminate bus stops in their area.
Parents who are now left with no other option, pleaded with the school board at a community meeting to reconsider.
The D38 School Board held an Eastern Bus Consolidation community meeting on Tuesday, May 23, after four bus stops were removed from the rural area of the district, east of Highway 83. At the meeting, many parents spoke up against the decision, some of them furious at the lack of communication from the school board.
FOX21 was not allowed to attend this public meeting. In the chat feature, Superintendent KC Sommers stated that our attendance would be a distraction, “There is a member from the press that is trying to access this meeting. However, this is designed as a family input meeting and is not a press/media event. We are focused on the issues with our families and do not want to distract from this focus at this time.”
At a school board meeting on May 2, the district’s transportation team decided to implement one centralized stop for the entire area east of Highway 83, at the corner of Black Forest Road and Amerind Drive. Over 200 District 38 students are registered for bus service in that area according to the district. For years, they had four bus stop options.
“The bus would come up at the intersection stop sign right in front of our house… It was a two-minute walk,” said Arman Katiraei, a parent of two children in the district.
A two-minute walk now turns into two hours for Katiraei’s kids, after their bus stop was eliminated. The new centralized stop is eight miles away from their house in the Black Forest Reserve neighborhood.
“So the only option would be for a parent to drive their kid to the bus stop. You can’t expect your kid to walk that distance with those kinds of street conditions, with those speed limits, even in the summer, let alone in the winter,” said Katiraei.
Parents who can’t drive their kids to the bus stop have no alternative.
“I am the single earner and the single parent in my household and work full time. So as you can imagine, this decision about the lack of bus service pretty much just blows up my life,” said Kristen Zick at the May 22 school board meeting.
Many parents say they chose D38 because of its esteemed education. But, because of the lack of buses, parents have to make hard choices.
“It’s making that choice difficult to stay in the school district when the other school districts are providing bussing and they’re not making any changes to their routes,” said Katiraei.
The district’s transportation team says this move would save $45,000 for the district, and families utilizing this bus stop would receive a 50% discount from the regular fee. But, it’s not enough for some parents.
“We’ve told them we’re willing to pay more if they continued doing the transportation that we’ve had before. But, this option is not a compromise. It’s effectively telling us don’t use the service,” said Katiraei.
In a statement from the district’s Director of Communication, Mark Belcher, they said this move will also alleviate the ongoing bus driver shortage, but that they are trying to work with families to find the best possible solution.
Full statement from Lewis-Palmer School District 38:
Lewis-Palmer School District 38 is not immune to market factors, chief among them staffing shortages, that make operating a fleet of buses across a more than 140-square-mile district difficult.Director of Communications, Mark Belcher
Currently, our team is considering alterations to transportation in the most rural part of our district which has drawn some concern from parents. Our goal is to continue providing service to those who rely on bussing while decreasing the number of routes, buses and drivers required to service the area by implementing a series of consolidated stops east of Highway 83.
We realize a change of this nature may be challenging for families, and we work every day to support our families however possible. Unfortunately, the District’s reality is that we operated last year short five drivers, despite campaigns and efforts to recruit drivers. This proposed change would alleviate the need to fill several positions, while still servicing the eastern part of our district.
This is an evolving plan, and we are working with our Transportation team, as well as our families, to find the best possible solution for both parties. We look forward to launching a successful 2023-2024 school year in August.