CMS prepares for changes in transportation, schedule

by Christina Ritchie Rogers

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is mulling over options that could mean big changes next year for students who ride the bus.

Following two years of significant cuts in state and federal funding, and the possibility of cutbacks of up to $100 million in state funding next fiscal year, Charlotte-Mecklenburg staff is looking into cutting its transportation costs.

Ideas for cuts include designating homes within a 1 1/2-mile radius of schools as part of a “no transportation zone,” and eliminating bussing for magnet schools.

Staff presented these ideas at a Tuesday, Dec. 14, school board meeting for discussion, as well as changes to the bell schedules.

“It is essential that the board enables us to operationalize (the changes) as soon as possible,” said Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Chief Operating Officer Hugh Hattabaugh, “so that we can alleviate uncertainty (for parents).”

The changes discussed would add to those already put into place, starting in 2007, that has saved the district about $11.1 million in transportation costs.

Moving forward, the staff has been asked to look at reducing transportation costs by an additional 10 percent.

To that end, the staff presented the following cost-cutting options at the meeting:

• A no-transportation zone within a 1 1/2-mile radius would affect about 51,000 students and save the system between $5 million and $6 million. However, having fewer riders on the busses next year could cause the district to receive less state funding the following year. The state allots funds for transportation based on the number of riders on the busses the previous year.

• Eliminating transportation services for magnet students could save the system about $6.7 million and cutting services for partial magnets would save an additional $2.8 million.

• Expand the staggered bell schedules to more schools. This move would optimize bus utilization, Stamper said.

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