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Spokane Public Schools asks for input on transportation recommendations

The district is inviting SPS students, parents and staff to weigh in on short term and long term transportation changes.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane Public Schools Board of Directors discussed proposed solutions to the district's transportation woes during a special meeting on March 23.

Now, the district is looking to SPS parents, students and staff for their thoughts on the recommendations. The survey currently has more than 260 comments.

In a presentation posted to the district's website, five possible short-term solutions were outlined along with three long-term proposals. The presentation also said that Durham Bus Services, which provides buses for the district, has gone from 150-158 bus routes and an average of 170 drivers before 2020, to 91 routes and 85 drivers currently.

Several comments said Durham Bus Services is unreliable and slow to communicate delays in bus pick-ups. One single mom wrote in and said her child had to walk back home after his bus never showed.

One commenter said continual delays is a conversation starter for equity issues. The comment went on to say, "It's unfair that students who completely rely on the bus are impacted more than students who have the option to get a ride with continual delays."

Other comments thanked the district for considering new changes to its transportation system.

The first of the five short-term proposals is a two-part plan, with the first part calling for the elimination of some bus stops and creating more centralized stops. The other part calls on the district to ask families to register for bus service during the previous school year to allow more time for planning.

The second short-term proposal is to extend bus arrival times to allow more time for pick-ups and arrivals. An example of this would be changing the time buses arrive to pick up high school students from 7:40 a.m. to 7:20 a.m.

The third short-term plan would see the district increase the size of the walk-zones around schools, which is the area around a school where student wouldn't be eligible to take the bus. These would remain at one mile for elementary school students, but go up to two miles for middle and high school students. According to SPS, this could lead to increased staff needs.

The fourth strategy that the district could implement in the short term is to buy more Spokane Transit Authority passes for high schoolers. The district already does this for some students. 

The final short-term solution proposal would call on the district to explore alternative options for some programs, such as choice programs and early learning.

The board also discussed three long-term recommendations.

The first proposal is to evaluate its contract with Durham Bus Services, as the contract ends at the completion of the 2022-2023 school year. The second long-term proposal would be to further increase partnership with STA, while the final proposal would see the district move bus services partially or completely in-house, in which case SPS would partner with other area districts for assistance.

The SPS board will meet April 13 to continue the discussion and potentially take action on the proposed recommendations during its regular session meeting. 

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