JENNIKA INGRAM | Reporter
A motion passed at the Palisades Charter High School Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, December 10, to cut the scholarship transportation budget by $48,000 and require all students applying for a bus transportation scholarship to submit a free and reduced lunch application with a stated income.
Members of the community and the board gathered to hear updates about the transportation program, despite cold temperatures in the room due to a broken heating system that had the school encouraging students and staff to dress warm as they worked to resolve the problem.
Bus transportation for the school year currently costs $2,250 per student. Transportation scholarships typically run from $500 to $1,650 per student, with only 2.9% of students currently receiving the largest amount.
Approximately 52% of bus riders are on free and reduced lunch, according to board minutes.
The requirement to fill out a free and reduced lunch application does not mean students will receive a scholarship if they qualify, nor does it indicate the amount of a potential scholarship—only that the student is eligible to receive a scholarship.
The change will apply to incoming ninth graders; current Pali High students will be grandfathered into the previous system.
The motion was done in a continued attempt by the board to reduce the ongoing budget deficit, according to board minutes. The decision was based on a recommendation by the Budget and Finance Committee for a 20% reduction in this fund.
“Everybody is sacrificing this year,” Don Parcell, director of operations, said. “The teachers are sacrificing in their classrooms. We have to do something because our current budget and all of our wonderful activities seem to be unsustainable.”
Meeting attendees raised concerns over the impact on diversity at the school.
“If we sacrifice our diversity, we are in the potential of losing our charter,” Tami Christopher-Hooker, director of admissions and attendance, said in a public comment.
The bus scholarship fund is $240,000 for the 2019-20 school year and comes out of the general fund. For 2020-21, it will be reduced to $192,000.
There is also a projected increased cost of the overall PCHS School Bus Program for next year that will also affect other areas, such as the late bus, competition buses, field trip buses and so forth, Parcell explained to the Palisadian-Post.
In terms of a dollar amount, around 10% of the current bus scholarship transportation budget goes to freshmen receiving scholarships, approximately 29% goes to sophomores, 28% to juniors and 32% of seniors, according to the minutes.
“If we had a lot of money, I don’t think there’s anybody on this board that wouldn’t say that we wouldn’t fund transportation,” Dara Williams, a parent board member, said. “But that’s not the position that we are in, so yes, there are different buckets that we have to fill, but the education bucket has to come first.”