School bus eligibility standarized at 3/4 mile mark

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Gone are the days when one sibling got to take the bus to school and the other had to walk because he or she was in a higher grade and was outside the busing radius.

Earlier this year, the School Committee standardized the busing eligibility for all students to three-quarters of a mile, thus eliminating a graduated system that had parents of kindergartners asking why their older brother or sister couldn’t likewise take the bus, especially when there was room. If there was space the department issued passes, but the process was time consuming and there wasn’t always space for a sibling.

Standardizing the busing distance also opens busing to more secondary students. Last year, students living within a mile of school were walkers. Now it is three-quarters of a mile.

Anthony Ferrucci, school finance director, estimated Friday the change will affect about 500 elementary students. Overall, the system provides busing for 5,800 students, of which 2,400 are elementary students and 650 are non-public school students. The department contracts with First Student for the service. The First Student contract is $4.1 million and the company operates 63 routes. Special needs students are provided door-to-door busing under a separate contract with First Student.

Ferrucci said the department has enough “bus capacity” to implement the system without adding buses and therefore increasing costs.

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