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SKSD again calculates who’s riding its buses

This week has been “Ridership Week’ for the South Kitsap School District. - File photo
This week has been “Ridership Week’ for the South Kitsap School District.
— image credit: File photo

The numbers never deviate much.

But South Kitsap School District transportation director Scott Logan hopes that will change in the next few years.

Bus Ridership Count Week ran from Monday through today in the district, but Logan said there has been little change when it comes to state funding.

He said the state typically funds district transportation at 67 percent, which is consistent with large school districts around the state.

But Logan, who served on a committee to reform the entire formula, said the funding method will change for the 2011-12 school year.

The state traditionally has used the crow-flight mile rather than actual miles on pavement to determine funding.

For example, if a student is one-quarter of a crow-flight mile from the school, but an obstruction such as a hill or water makes it a two-mile bus drive, that student does not meet the requirement to be funded by the state.

SKSD does not receive funding for any student who lives less than a mile from their school.

The one-mile requirement will remain in effect, but it will be based on actual miles rather than crow flight next year.

Another change is that funding will no longer be based on just one week. Instead, there will be three different counts throughout the year. Logan said he likes that change because the previous system was based on a small sample size. With the count occurring in late September, he said the district was not funded for several programs that begin later.

The previous method also only counted morning riders. Logan said that was problematic for SKSD and others because many parents drive their children to school on their way to work. Many of those students then rode the school bus home, but were not counted. Logan said the new method will count both morning and afternoon riders.

He also said the changes in the system will be make it safer for students and bus drivers. Under the previous system, the state required that drivers stop the bus to count riders and fill out paperwork at each stop.

Logan said that all will occur at the school now, which he said will allow drivers to concentrate on students and the road.

Logan said 2011-12 will be a “fact-finding year” and he does not anticipate more funding from the state initially.

He said state officials have guaranteed that districts will not receive less funding next year to help them prepare for future revenue downturns. Small school districts, which Logan said often are fully funded for transportation up to 115 percent, likely will see the greatest losses from the new plan.

“Everyone is waiting with baited breath,” Logan said.

But based on analyses the district has performed, Logan said he expects SKSD’s transportation to be funded at 97 percent by the 2013-14 school year.

If that comes to fruition, Logan said the district would save about $1 million that traditionally is allocated from levy money.

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