KELLER (CBSDFW.COM) – The Keller ISD school board approved a plan Monday night to make parents pay for students who wish to ride the bus.
Under the plan, parents or guardians will pay $185 a semester for one child to ride the bus and $135 for a second child. Students who get free and reduced lunches will have to pay $100.
“There will be buses,” superintendent James Veitenheimer told parents after initial worries that there wouldn’t be bus service during the school year. “They just won’t be free.”
After initially saying there would be no monthly payment plan, Keller ISD officials said Tuesday that parents could, after all, pay on a month-to-month basis.
For one child to ride the bus for a month, parents would pay $48 and $36 for another child in the same family. Students who qualify for free and reduced lunches can pay $27 a month to ride. For roughly four months, the rate is just $7 more than the flat rate.
According to a release, Keller ISD teamed with technology provider Radiant Systems to create the monthly rate plan. Radiant also developed a “payment portal” that allows parents to pay the fees online.
“We’re excited that we’re going to have a transportation option for students at all, and feel very fortunate that our partners at Durham and Radiant were able to help provide another payment option for our families,” Veitenheimer said in a statement.
Students will now carry identification cards that will track if they have paid the fees, which must be paid up-front.
“Had we known there was not going to be an option to get our kids to school we’d have bought a house right next to the school,” said Jennifer Rosenthal, one of the 100 parents who came to the board meeting Monday.
Buses have always been a necessary part of getting to school for the Rosenthal family. Her children travel two miles to Keller Middle School and just over three miles to Bear Creek Intermediate.
But that’s no longer a guaranteed service: Each year Keller spends between $260 and $360 per student on school bus transportation. District officials say when Keller voters rejected a 13-cent increase in the property tax rate they were left to find other ways of generating money.
During the 2010-2011 school year the district provided about 120 school bus routes. During the next school year, there will be just 72 stops. Routes will be released Thursday.
But, there will still be 40 routes for special needs children, which a state mandate.
Though the pay-to-ride plan went forward, the district said it would help low-income families find ways to pay for the service through non-profits like the Keller ISD Education Foundation.
The pay-to-ride plan would affect some 7,000 Keller students who live more than two miles from school. District officials anticipate the new school bus system will save the district about $2 million. With the savings – and more state dollars than expected – the district hopes to rehire teachers it planned on firing.
At least two other North Texas school districts, Burleson and Northwest ISD, are also looking at pay-to-ride systems.
Keller ISD schools reconvene August 22.