Student assignment and transportation: meeting recap

At tonight’s meeting of the Ad Hoc committee on student assignment, Board members were briefed on the Superintendent’s proposed transportation policy, which will come up for a vote at tomorrow night’s meeting of the full Board. The upshot:

  • General education transportation will be reduced by $1.4 million — currently there are 44 buses running routes in the morning and afternoon, but by the beginning of the 2013-14 school year there will be 25 buses;
  • Remaining routes will be reshuffled to align with the Board’s goals;
  • There will be limited transportation to afterschool programs (children bused to non-SFUSD programs may see their transportation eliminated).

I generally support the Superintendent’s proposal because I am more interested in applying our very limited dollars to the classroom than I am in continuing a transportation system that makes little sense under our current realities. I also support the district’s (unrealized) vision of sufficient afterschool program capacity at every school. Still, I have consistently said that I do not think the new transportation policy as proposed offers enough support to families who will find the transition to the new system to be very painful.

Currently, there are about 3,300 SFUSD students who depend on a morning and/or afternoon bus. After this policy is fully implemented, there will be perhaps 2,000 students riding yellow buses to or from school.  Five years from now, families will have adjusted their school choices and commute patterns to match the options available (yellow bus transportation, carpooling, walking or MUNI). But as I said above, the transition will be painful for families who made their choices under one system and are going to find their options shifting right under their feet.

But commissioners made very clear tonight that they disagree with my suggestion that the district offer guarantees — either of new school assignments or space in afterschool programs — to families who suddenly find their arrangements unworkable for their commutes or work schedules. The best I could get was an assurance that counseling would be available for parents who need help making new arrangements. Hopefully that will be enough.

Next up: Parents for Public Schools-SanFrancisco and the Parent Advisory Council presented plans for an extensive community engagement effort around the middle school feeder patterns — initially proposed for the 2011-12 school year but postponed until the 2012-13 year after objections from parents and school communities — particularly around the implementation of language pathways.

Starting in late January, SFUSD will convene (in partnership with PPS-SF and the PAC) community meetings at each of our 15 Middle Schools and other community organizations to review a draft proposal from district staff and elicit reactions from community members. Those meetings will continue through March, with a report on the community feedback issued to the Board sometime in April.  The goal is for the Board to adopt a final middle school feeder plan in May.

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In other news, the Board’s Curriculum and Program committee heard a report on the district’s Small Schools by Design policy, which is up for review this year. Board members asked for a more extensive review of student achievement and other data to be brought to a Committee of the Whole later this year.

The committee also voted to send the C5 International School charter application to the full board with a negative recommendation based on the staff review of its curriculum offerings. The full Board will vote whether to approve the C5 International School’s charter application tomorrow night, Dec. 14.

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