District re­views bus­ing dilemma

Board looks to al­le­vi­ate over­crowd­ing due to en­roll­ment growth

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Gin­ger Rae Dun­bar gdun­bar@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @GingerDun­bar on Twit­ter

EAST CALN >> Ad­just­ments are be­ing made for the bus­ing of Down­ing­town Area School District stu­dents to al­le­vi­ate the over crowd­ings due to its en­roll­ment growth.

Dur­ing the school board meet­ing on Wed­nes­day, district Chief Fi­nan­cial Of­fi­cer Rich Fazio ex­plained that district con­sul­tants last year in­formed the ad­min­is­tra­tors that they could re­duce seven buses to save money. How­ever, the buses are now needed again be­cause of an in­crease in stu­dent en­roll­ment.

“As a re­sult we de­vel­oped our 2016-17 bus sched­ule with that goal in mind and as a tar­get. We fell short on that goal, but we were able to re­duce our fleet by six buses,” Fazio said. “Through­out the sum­mer we no­ticed the en­roll­ments were in­creas­ing and we were con­cerned with ride times as well as rid­er­ship. When school be­gan, en­roll­ment in the Down­ing­town Area School District was at an all-time high.”

More than 14,000 stu­dents are

en­rolled in the district. Ac­cord­ing to the district, 378 ad­di­tional stu­dents en­rolled in the district since Septem­ber 2015 with 323 who en­rolled since June. Fazio said the rid­er­ship ra­tio be­came “higher than ex­pected.”

The ca­pac­ity on a bus is 72 pas­sen­gers, which equals three stu­dents to a seat. He said the district tries to max­i­mize the ca­pac­ity at

48 pas­sen­gers, which equals two stu­dents per seat.

“While we con­sider 72 pas­sen­gers on a bus over­crowded, it is im­por­tant to note that the PDE (Penn­syl­va­nia De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion) does not,” Fazio said. “Clearly sev­eral buses are over­crowded this year. Book bags, mu­si­cal in­stru­ments and sport­ing equip­ment, sim­ply adds to the over­crowd­ing.”

He said it is a “con­cern” for any of the buses to have more than 48 stu­dents, espe­cially at the sec­ondary level.

“The district has ex­pe­ri­enced unan­tic­i­pated growth. With over 300 new reg­is­tered stu­dents, there have been in­stances of over­crowd­ing on some school buses,” the district web­site states. “We are aware of the sit­u­a­tion and will be seek­ing a so­lu­tion.”

Fazio noted the district trans­porta­tion de­part­ment has made ad­just­ments to the bus sched­ule and it is mon­i­tor­ing the rid­er­ship ra­tio this week. Driv­ers are tak­ing head­counts of the pas­sen­gers to re­port to the district by Fri­day for the staff to make ad­di­tional changes to re­lieve the over­crowd­ing. The district trans­porta­tion de­part­ment is re­view­ing to de­ter­mine if adding bus routes are nec­es­sary.

“Each ad­di­tional bus rep­re­sents a $72,000 de­ci­sion,” Fazio said. “We hope that by the end of next week, buses will have been sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced (in rid­er­ship).”

There was no pub­lic com­ment about the mat­ter.

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