Hundreds of parents crowded the D-49 school board meeting Thursday for a chance to voice their concerns about ending bus services for their kids next year. The board, however, voted unanimously to terminate bus services for students.
So many people showed up to the meeting that they could not fit into room, or the building. In fact, the room was over fire code capacity and the crowd was so loud and angry that the El Paso County Sheriff's Office was called to the scene for crowd control. Soon after the vote was taken, the president of the board was forced to adjoin the meeting at the command of the fire marshal.
The crowd did nothing, however, to deter the board members of D-49 who voted unanimously to end bus transportation beginning the 2011–2012 school year.
Falcon School Board President Dave Martin says the district simply can't afford to pay for bus services. The state only gives then $600,000 for transportation, when they have a $3.6 million transportation budget.
"Our budget keeps decreasing and our expenses keep going up and our focus is on the classroom," said Martin.
Parents within the district told 11 News they received word about the board's planned actions through a note given to their children by district bus drivers.
Rod Klock, whose son rides a bus to school says “It seems like they're just trying to push this through without having a big old fight about it. If the parents in D-49 don't stand up and fight for this, they're going have to take their kids to school themselves next year."
Kids will still be bused as normal for the rest of this school year. The board has asked the Transportation Dept. to come up with alternatives for the 2011-2012 school year. Proposals will be heard in March. Some suggestions include transferring transportation services to an outside company, or introducing a rider fee to cover the costs.
"The objective is to put it back to the public and say, we can't keep it the same,” said board member Andy Holloman. “We have to change and we're looking for that feedback."
Some districts in Denver, such as Douglas County have had to implement a rider fee to offset costs. Academy District 20 has a committee that is studying the issue right now.
"It is simple. The question is should we charge a fee and if so, how much," said Karin Reynolds, D-20 Assistant Superintendent for Learning Services.
The board asked the district's Transportation Division to listen to public input and bring alternate proposals back before the D-49 board by the end of March.