Monday, January 29, 2018 / by Sean Zanganeh
Of the 33,000 students serviced by Poway Unified School District, about 3,300 rode the bus to and from school last year, relying on it as their primary form of transportation. One of the main concerns of the district this year was that not enough bus passes would be sold, severely affecting the already strained financial spending. In order to keep the program in business in response to stranded parents, Poway Unified decided to increase the prices of passes in order to compensate. They needed 85% of the bus riders from last year to agree to pay the higher 2010-2011 bus pass prices of $575, up 31% from last year's price of $439. Uncertain if their goal could be met, layoff notices were sent to the 35 bus drivers and 5 transportation workers in preparation for the likely shutdown.
What the Poway Unified School District didn't predict, however, was the response of the community to this predicament. Parents, drivers, and other community members came together to launch a fundraising campaign with the hope of receiving enough money to help subsidize costs for those families who are not able to afford the increased pass price, but who are indebted to the service. The fundraising group has surpassed expectations, raising $4,000 with an additional $6,000 in pledges from companies who work closely with the Poway Unified School District.
The money raised, and the more than 2,000 bus passes currently sold, has been enough for the bus system to run another year. Although still slightly under quota for sales, the District Transportation Director and Poway Unified Superintendent say that trends show passes continue to be sold during the first week of school, and they are confident that the numbers will grow. A small group of routes were closed this year because the 30 student minimum could not be met, but the district promises it will affect less than 50 students total.
The strong response of the community gives this story a happy ending-it has allowed all 35 bus drivers to disregard their layoff notices, has given thousands of students much-needed transportation, and parents welcome relief. But most importantly, it has shown that even during difficult times, the community of Poway Unified School District will come together and work hard for what they believe in.