By JENNIKA INGRAM | Reporter
Palisades Charter High School students, parents and community members recently had an opportunity to air concerns about the importance of the school’s bus program at a public town hall meeting, held by the administration and the board of directors, on Wednesday, November 20.
“Solutions are what we are here for,” Faculty Board Member Paula Anderson said. “We’re not here to take away the transportation program. We’re here to solve the problem of transportation. We’re here to solve the problem of diversity.”
Parents, students, teachers and board members shared ideas to improve the transportation situation and funding channels, as well as addressing concerns that any decline of the busing system will decrease diversity in the student body.
“Our enrollment in the busing program has been going down every year,” said Don Parcell, director of operations. Seven hundred and ninety students were enrolled in the program as of February 2018, according to Board of Trustees minutes.
Michael Rawson, director of development, shared that 21% of students at Pali High reside in the Palisades, while the rest come from 116 different zip codes.
Taking the bus to and from school costs individual riders $225 per month for 10 months.
“There are no federal grants for transportation because if there are, they go to the state,” Rawson explained. “The state funds are very restrictive and also very competitive.”
Most state funding excludes charter schools or requires the school have a minimum of 55% and sometimes up to 90% of free and reduced lunch students, while Pali has 31%, Rawson continued.
In an effort to encourage people, Rawson shared information about the Pali GO Fund. Last year, 23 teachers at Pali High chose to partake in an online donation fund and reached out to their friends through emails. The fund raised $46,000 in a few months.
Although the Pali GO Fund did not meet the shortfall, the funds were utilized and made a difference for busing students. The Pali GO Fund website continues to be a resource for the public to donate.
“We recently raised our parking passes,” said Elena Chao, president of the Associated Student Body Leadership Class, who sits with the Board, after being challenged that ASB Leadership isn’t doing enough. Parking passes for students with personal cars recently doubled in price to raise money that was donated to the Pali GO Fund, she continued.
The student leader added that it was unacceptable to say ASB Leadership isn’t doing anything—that it’s been their top priority, and they strive to represent all of Pali.
Some Pali High teachers have also sponsored individual students’ transportation costs. In response to public comment, board members shared students are not restricted from finding local businesses or individuals to sponsor their busing costs.
“We have had individual students sponsored by donors,” parent board member Sarah Margiotta said about personal donors. The hurdle for corporate sponsorship seemingly stems from the Palisades’ remote location.
“Everyone here shows a commonality of wanting to find a solution,” said a senior student who is part of ASB Leadership, encouraging anyone who has an idea to reach out to them and share it.