School activity buses halted

STAFF WRITERAugust 26, 2010 

— Thousands of families across Wake County could have schedules disrupted beginning this week with the elimination of all after-school activity buses in a cost-cutting move.

Budget-trimmers eliminated 65 daily buses used by students who take part in sports, clubs or other extracurricular activities.

Midday bus service, mostly for students who worked half-days, was more than cut in half, for a savings on both services of nearly $1 million.

Beverley Clark, a former school board member, said the move is ill-advised.

"In this economy we have many families where both parents have to work and cannot leave work to pick their children up from school," Clark said. "Eliminating the after-school activity buses impacts any family without a car or a flexible schedule. Most importantly, there is extensive research that shows the strong relationship between students engaged in extracurricular activities and student achievement."

Ridership on the buses varied from school to school and season to season, said Wake schools spokesman Michael Evans, who did not have hard numbers for overall ridership.

"Some had as few as five and some 20 or 30," Evans said. "It became expensive to maintain that kind of service."

Some are saying the change has not been well publicized, affecting students such as those who receive tutoring or play sports at magnet schools and would ride the bus to a community center near their homes.

"It's a problem," said school board member Carolyn Morrison, who questioned the cut during budget negotiations in March. "People can't always take advantage of after-school activities without transportation."

School officials differentiated between the discontinued after-school activity buses and buses owned and supported by individual schools, which can still be used to take students to night sports events and the like.

The board has also put off buying any more activity buses, which cost about $80,000 each, during the next two budget years.

To catch up with the previous pace of purchasing buses, the board would have to buy 11 more after 2012. or 919-829-8929

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