Sunnyside may scrap busing for non-district students

2014-08-15T00:00:00Z 2014-08-15T09:36:41Z Sunnyside may scrap busing for non-district studentsBy Alexis Huicochea Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

After actively campaigning to get out-of-district students to enroll in Sunnyside schools, even throwing in free transportation, the district is considering putting an end to busing those students.

District officials say it has not proved cost-effective.

The policy revision was presented to the Governing Board on Wednesday and will be brought back for action on Aug. 27. If the board approves, the change will be effective immediately — just weeks into the new school year.

In the meantime, parents of out-of-district, open-enrollment students will be informed that transportation may no longer be provided.

Busing out-of-district students has created a stress on the transportation department, said Sunnyside interim Superintendent Eugenia Favela.

“It has become very difficult for them to provide timely transportation for all in-district students,” Favela told the Governing Board. “In addition, there are concerns that transporting out-of-district open-enrollment students is not cost-effective.”

Should the board adopt the administration’s recommendation, the only way out-of-district students would be able to catch a Sunnyside bus is by getting to a regular district pickup point, a draft policy states.

Approximately 1,200 out-of-district students were enrolled in Sunnyside schools last year, but information on how many received free busing was not immediately available Thursday. District officials believe that the policy change would impact only 17 students.

The change would not affect transportation for in-district students attending magnet programs like those at Liberty, Gallego, Los Amigos and Lauffer.

There was no discussion about the recommended policy change at Wednesday’s meeting.

Sunnyside has spent thousands of dollars in an effort to lure out-of-district students, airing ads in movie theaters, displaying street posters and buying radio spots, touting a tech-savvy district with free all-day kindergarten, laptops for students, fine-arts programs and athletics.

In other business, Sunnyside will begin live streaming audio and video of Governing Board and bond advisory meetings.

The service will be done in-house with existing resources and is expected to go live by September.

“The board members feel they want to have more opportunities for the community to know what is going on and to know the work that the board is doing,” district spokeswoman Mary Veres said. “It’s really for the sake of visibility and transparency for the community.”

Tucson’s second-largest school district continues its search for a new superintendent. It is seeking proposals from consultants to conduct a regional search on the West Coast.

Proposals will be accepted through next Friday.

The Governing Board voted on Wednesday to use a committee to rank the proposals before a recommendation is forwarded to the board. The committee will be made up of community members, representatives from employee groups and others nominated by the board.

The board could award the contract to the top-ranked firm or decide to interview the top three and award the contract to whoever would provide the services required.

The second option put forth, which was not selected, was to allow the board to evaluate and rank the proposals with no outside influence.

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at ahuicochea@tucson.com or 573-4175. On Twitter @AlexisHuicochea

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