About 1,200 additional Syracuse City School students will be riding the bus starting this fall after Syracuse Common Councilors Monday approved spending an extra $1.8 million to cover the cost.
The amended contract with First Student covers children in grades K through 8 through the next school year. It’s not that the district has seen a surge in enrollment; Chief Financial Officer Suzanne Slack says it’s the result of reducing the maximum walking distance for students from two miles to 1.5 miles.
"Certainly with the weather and the road conditions that we have here in Syracuse, we think it's a worthwhile investment to make sure kids are safe and have the opportunity for transportation to school everyday."
Some of the added cost is also due to automatic increases in transportation expenses. Slack says the district found a way to fund it all through its existing budget.
"We've gotten really good feedback from teachers, administrators, students, and their families. A lot of our families don't have transportation, so they're walking their children to school."
Having the bus as an option means parents can send their children off to school without worrying about the weather or safety. Back in 2015, the district reached a similar agreement with CENTRO to bus an additional 500 high school students. Slack says they played a significant role in pushing this latest plan.
"We initially got a lot of input from high school students coming to us as part of their civic involvement to say that as youngsters, they felt that really could have used a ride to school, and now they're advocating for the kids that are coming up behind them in the ranks."
Slack says after years of research and negotiation, the district was unsuccessful in convincing the state to cover the additional cost of busing more K to 8 students. But she says but the board of education felt it was critical to provide the service.