GARLAND (CBSDFW.COM) – For the past decade some students in the Garland Independent School District have endured daily 40-minute bus rides to and from school. Now school board members have decided to end that commute for some and continue it for others – at a big price.
After a school board meeting Tuesday night Garland ISD board members voted to allow 137 3rd and 4th graders to stay put in their schools for the next two years. But the partial bus route change means the school district will shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy new school buses.
Most of the students making the long commute are in bilingual and English As A Second Language programs. They were being bussed out of area because their neighborhood schools were at capacity and simply didn’t have the room.
An initial proposal before the school board would have changed bus routes, making commutes shorter, and moved all the students to different schools. It failed in a 5 to 2 vote.
School board president Larry Glick was among those who opposed requiring that third and fourth grade students change schools.
“Well to me if you’ve attended that school all that time, you have friends, teachers, the principal knows you. You’re very comfortable. And now we’re saying, ‘sorry because of an administrative change and you may be there for a year or two, that’s just the consequences of our plan.’ I don’t agree with that.”
Some parents think the money would have been better used in other areas.
Mom Anika Watkins said, “That is $650,000 that could be used for teachers aids and teachers assistants in schools that need it. When you have a ratio of 25 children to 1 teacher – that’s too much for a teacher to handle.”
The decision to move forward with a grandfathered bus route was close, with a school board member vote of 4 to 3 late Tuesday night.
The approved changes mean 100+ students will be grandfathered in on the current bus routes and won’t have to change schools, but the decision to have them stay put for the next two years won’t come cheap.
To allow the students who so desire to stay at their current school, the district will spend nearly $650,000 to purchase five school buses and hire five bus drivers.
Glick says its money well spent and will be long-lasting. “There’s a cost to those buses. However, a bus doesn’t disappear after a year or two. We will have buses for forever. So these will be the same buses we’ll use.”
The move to spend thousands of dollars per student to continue long commutes isn’t unprecedented in the district. Garland ISD administrators did the same thing to help out some high school campuses in 2104.
There’s no word yet on how quickly the new school buses and bus routes will be in place.
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