More Pueblo County District 70 elementary and middle school students will have to walk to school next year as the school board agreed to reduce some bus routes as a cost-saving measure.
The board agreed Wednesday to several changes in transportation that is estimated to save approximately $500,000.
The district is facing an approximate $2.1 million shortfall for the 2014-15 budget.
District 70 contracts transportation service with First Student.
Elementary-school students who live within a mile of their school and middle-school students who live within 1 1/2 miles will no longer receive transportation service.
The change considerably increases the walk radius at both levels.
Currently, the district provides transportation service to elementary students who live farther than a quarter-mile from their school and to middle school students who live more than a half-mile from their school.
The board also approved doing away with midday bus routes, with the exception of students with special needs.
Greg Keasling, director of student services, said district leaders realize the change will create a hardship for some parents but the move will keep the district from having to make cuts that affect the classroom.
“We know the parents in District 70 are not used to that type of radius. We know that on the (St. Charles) Mesa and in Pueblo West there are no sidewalks and it’s going to be a struggle but again this is keeping the cuts away from the classroom.
“It seems this is the best of the worst ways to maintain the education for our students.”
Keasling said letters will go out soon to parents notifying them of the changes.
Keasling also recommended the district look into changing the start and release times at Liberty Point and Prairie Winds elementary schools, which could consolidate routes.
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