Leander ISD discusses delaying new hazardous bus routes formula for 2020-21

(Courtesy Fotolia)
(Courtesy Fotolia)

(Courtesy Fotolia)

Leander ISD’s board of trustees at its last meeting discussed the possibility of delaying the enactment of the new hazardous bus routes formula.

Consequently, trustees also discussed the financial implications of adding bus routes to the proposed 2020-21 budget—currently $21,000,327 over projected revenue—and the added stress on bus transportation if social distancing is implemented on buses.

The new formula—scheduled to be voted upon at the trustees’ June 18 meeting—would make 18 LISD bus routes within 2 miles of campuses no longer eligible to receive bus service in August.

At their June 11 agenda review meeting, trustees brought up the idea of delaying the routes' implementation. They cited the uncertainty of the upcoming school year and the added stress that the new hazardous routes matrix could create for LISD families.

“There are so many unknowns,” trustee Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia said. “If we can mitigate some of the unknowns for our students and our families, why not consider those?”

LISD students who live 2 or more miles from campus qualify for bus transportation. Those who live less than 2 miles from their campus must provide their own transportation unless their route to school is graded as hazardous. In those cases, students are eligible for bus transportation.

Since October 2018, LISD’s Hazardous Routes Committee has been working on a new formula. The 15-member group, composed of LISD staff and community volunteers, has introduced at least three versions of the new matrix, each less stringent than the previous one.

The last scheduled vote in May was delayed after parents along two ineligible routes provided proof that their routes were eligible.

As a result, the hazardous routes vote was delayed until June so Area Superintendent John Graham and staff could double-check other ineligible routes.

At the June 11 online meeting, Graham said staff found six additional routes that were incorrectly deemed ineligible to receive bus transportation. Of the 42 routes being discussed for 2020-21, 24 are now eligible, and 18 are not eligible.

Trustee Jim Mackay suggested tabling the new matrix until the 2020-21 school year comes into focus.

“We have no idea at this moment what next year is going to look like.” Mackay said. “I would be very agreeable to tabling this hazardous routes implementation until we figure out what the fall is going to look like."

Trustees also wondered how LISD—which is facing a bus driver shortage—would accommodate the ineligible routes, especially if the district resumes on-campus learning but with social distancing.

“If we have to reduce capacities on buses, how do we do that if we increase the routes?” asked trustee Elexis Grimes.

Due to changing hazards, such as building and road construction, LISD annually assesses routes within the 2-mile radius.

The June 18 meeting is scheduled to begin online at 6:15 p.m. on the district’s YouTube page. Citizens wishing to comment must register online from 5:30-6 p.m. on the day of the meeting.
By Brian Perdue
Brian Perdue is the editor of the Lake Travis-Westlake and Northwest Austin editions of Community Impact Newspaper. A native of Virginia's Appalachian Mountains, he has been a journalist since 1992, living and working in Virginia, Washington D.C., Hawaii's Big Island, Southern California and Florida before moving to Austin in 2019.


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