By CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA | Reporter
The number of students who ride the bus at Palisades Charter High School has severely decreased after the Board of Trustees voted to increase bus fees at the end of last semester, according to a report by Don Parcell, the school’s director of operations.
The vote to increase the price to $215 per month was made along with a provision to install a more thorough screening process of families that receive transportation aid from the school.
Ridership at this point and time of last year was in the low 800s, according to Parcell. He reported that this year that number is at about 450 riders per day, or a 45 percent drop.
When asked by the board what the decline could be attributed to, Parcell said, “Pricing, cost to the families … for the last eight years we’ve been in that 800 to 900 ridership roughly. It seems to be exclusively price-driven.”
On the bright side, Parcell said, the buses continue to be provided by American Transportation System, and they have all been yellow buses and have been punctual with their timing.
“Everything is fine, it just costs too much,” he said.
Out of the hundreds of students who no longer take the school bus, only eight are known to no longer attend Pali High.
“That means all those students are still coming here, they’ve just found other ways to get here,” Parcell said.
But the vacant seats create a larger financial problem, as the school is now responsible for coming up with over $750,000 to cover the costs and has the transportation committee at Pali High scrambling to find a solution.
One option being weighed, according to Parcell, is the consolidation of bus stops that will require less buses. This will result in requiring some traveling students to wake up earlier or traveling further to get to and from their buses.
An April article in the Palisadian-Post reported some students spending several hours on school buses that bring in students from cities as far away as Gardena.
Regardless of what solutions are implemented, the school faces a future conflict with the transportation company who has bought newer buses, reconditioned old ones and hired new drivers to accommodate Pali High.
“I will caution the board that the bus company is not going to be happy with this at all,” Parcell said. “I think in their mind they are thinking, ‘Oh, maybe it’ll be 14 or 15 [buses] instead of 16 … but it’s not going to be that.’”
The transportation committee is expected to come to an agreement on what to do in the coming weeks and will report back to the Board of Trustees at a future meeting.