San Dieguito will no longer offer bus service

While many SDUHSD families purchase bus passes, the ridership is lower.

The San Dieguito Union High School District board adopted its 2020-21 budget on June 18, agreeing to cut seven middle school bus routes. By restructuring transportation they will save an estimated $301,389 a year and continue to offer shuttle services to Torrey Pines and Sunset High Schools for the highest need students.

While 300 morning bus passes and 428 afternoon passes were sold for 2019-20, the actual ridership numbers are lower. Ridership has steadily decreased over the last several years, representing about 1.7% of student population in the morning and 2.2% of in the afternoon.

The morning route at Oak Crest Middle is only at 9% capacity with five students. In the afternoon, an average of 39 students take one route, while another is at 100% capacity with 56 students.

There are two routes at Diegeuno Middle School, at 64 and 73 percent capacity in the morning (53 students total) and 30-38% capacity in the afternoon.

Carmel Valley Middle School has four routes, ranging from 54-80 percent capacity in the morning (30 to 45 students) and 38-63% capacity in the afternoon (21-35 students). The one morning route to Earl Warren has an average of eight students riding; the three afternoon routes are at 41 to 75% capacity (a total of 93 students).

Parents pay about $750 for bus passes—the highest in the county—and the passes cover less than half of the district’s cost for transportation.

With the reduction of routes, there will be no impact to employees as drivers will be used to support field trips, athletics and to take back some services that had been contracted out to transport students with special needs.

“It’s a tough call but I’m thinking this is when we need to do it to maintain some of these other services and find a way to keep from digging our hole any deeper,” SDUHSD President Beth Hergesheimer said.

“Cuts are never fun,” agreed SDUHSD Trustee Kristin Gibson. “This is one that stays away from the classroom.”

SDUHSD Clerk Melisse Mossy expressed her concerns about kids who really need this service and the families who might find themselves now in a difficult situation. She wanted to ensure that when the district informs families about the elimination of services that they are provided with options such as city buses or ride-sharing services to help “fill in the gap for where they need to go.”

SDUHSD Superintendent Robert Haley said the administrative services team and principals would be able to work with families.

“We want to make sure our students can get to school,” Haley said. “By focusing on our highest needs students, I think it’s a prudent way to move forward.”

The restructuring of transportation was not included in the approved budget and will be reflected at first interim in September, which Douglas has said will likely look different due the many uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 and the return to school.

The district is projecting a deficit of about $800,000 and ending the year with a reserve balance of $11.9 million. On the revenue side, they are estimating $155,087,593. Revenues include the closure of SOUL Charter School bringing $617,206 back to the district and the governor’s proposed 10% cut to the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), a reduction in state aid of about $35,000. The cuts to LCFF will have little effect on San Dieguito as they are a basic aid district, mostly funded by property taxes. During tough economic times, Douglas has noted, property taxes are at risk.

The district’s budgeted $155,916,402 in expenditures includes staffing finalizations including additional teachers, an additional counselor, a temporary psychologist, two additional custodians and a student health specialist at COAST Academy at the new Requeza Educational Center set to open this fall.