If increased Operational Cost and Tax increases are no concern….don’t stop at High School Busing

C. Elliott – Req. City Mgr. Report On The Process Of Bidding Of School Bus Contract And Provide Report On Initiating Busing Of Lowell High Students This Year / Next Year.

Despite the fact that the Mayor and current School Committee or the last Mayor and the former School Committee never felt there was a need to address High School Busing and the fact that several Councilor’s with a decade or more of service to the City have never addressed High School busing and in light of the current shortfall in the existing school budget, all of a sudden there is a want to bypass the responsibilities that belong to the School Committee and ask the City Manager to address it? Why?

State Law doesn’t mandate busing beyond 6th grade: Eligibility

All children in grades kindergarten through six who reside more than two miles from the school they are entitled to attend and the nearest school bus stop is more than one mile from their residence and all children residing in regional school districts in grades kindergarten through twelve. Exceptions to this policy may be made when road conditions do not provide for the physical safety of the children and when the health of students make this service essential.

State statutes establish the responsibility of the School Committee to provide transportation services for students transported to and from home and school and to and from educational programs. The School Committee presently has a very favorable busing policy for families

Grades K-4 must live .75/mile to qualify for a school bus.
Grades 5-8 must live 1.50/miles to qualify for a school bus.

Lowell is NOT the Only city that doesn’t provide busing to the High School many communities that offer busing CHARGE a BUS FEE (See Dracut) and most Urban cities like Worcester – Brockton – Springfield have a 2 mile policy for busing students.

If Lowell decided to use the 2 mile limit like most communities use, many students who now walk would still not qualify for High School busing to the present site. If you lived on Methuen St near the Dracut line for example, it’s under 2 miles. Same holds true for 20 Douglas Road, 487 Westford St, 380 University Ave.- Salem St. – Market St – South St. – Pleasant St – Chapel St. etc.

The same would hold true for the Cawley Site, families on Burnham road, Virginia Ave, Chapel St., Stackpole St., Concord St, South St. etc. all would be walkers.

Many communities use the MBTA or regional transportation by offering bus or trolley passes. If there is a want to offer busing to the existing location than the School Committee can purchase students LRTA bus passes for the 1400 Students identified as walkers for ten month which would cost $280,000 compared to $1.4 million to bus the existing 3500, less if we implement the 2 mile cutoff.

If there is no concern with additional cost for busing High School students or the need to increase taxes to fund it and if Councilor’s want to set policy that is supposed to be the responsibility of the School Committee, then I say let’s not stop there.

The School Committee should go on record and make the following votes then have the Mayor present them to the Councilor’s for discussion and public input and roll call votes.

1) To recommend that transportation cost be clearly broken out has a stand alone line item under Education in the City Budget. Ask the city to fund the current $18,000,000 cash contribution in full while separating transportation cost which doesn’t count towards Net School spending. Thus clarifying the actual amount of cash contribution the School Dept receives from the city from property taxes.

2) Vote to reopen, update and fully staff the Oakland Fire Station across from Shedd Park to properly protect the existing neighborhood schools and possible future High School by shortening the response time and travel distance.

3) Purchase the Elks Club without selling the Laura Lee School. Use the Laura Lee for Central Administration and use the money the School Dept pays in rent for student services instead.

4) To have the City fund Police Resource Officers at EVERY Lowell Public School to strengthen and improve Community policing and provide the foundation for good community outreach and establishing communication and positive relationships with the students of the city.

5) To request the City Manager and his Finance team attend a School Committee meeting each quarter and present a detailed cost breakdown of chargebacks for school related cost charged against the City’s Net School Spending requirement.

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