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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : School District Will Impose Busing Fee : Transportation: The Castaic board approves a $150 annual charge. Parents have several payment options.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If you plan to ride the school bus here, make sure you’ve brought your Visa card. Because in this north county community, school officials don’t like to see children walking through truck traffic, and they don’t take American Express.

Castaic Union School District trustees voted 4 to 1 Thursday night for a $150-annual busing fee with payment options that include installment plans, day-pass ticket books and most major credit cards.

Trustee Dirk Gosda dissented, instead supporting a $200 fee that he said will eventually have to be assessed.

About 1,400 of the district’s 1,670 students are bused to Castaic and Live Oak elementary schools and Castaic Middle School in an expensive transportation program that cost $314,000 this year.

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California reimburses schools for bus service using a 1978 formula based on the number of student riders. Minor adjustments are made for inflation but not explosive population growth such as that the Santa Clarita Valley has experienced.

The fee structure adopted Thursday requires families to pay $150 for a child to be bused to and from school or $300 for more than one child. Ticket books, at $1 per ride, will be available for infrequent riders, and parents can pay in quarterly installments or with major charge cards--except American Express.

A high percentage of Castaic students take the bus because they live across the Golden State Freeway and would have to navigate busy truck traffic and off-ramp traffic to reach campus.

Assuming only half those now bused pay the new fee this fall, it will offset $100,000 of the annual transportation debt, according to Michael R. Slater, district business manager.

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Trustees on Thursday also approved an earlier start for Castaic Middle School, beginning the day at 7:30 a.m. rather than 8. That move is expected to save the district $25,000 by allowing more buses to be removed from service.

“What that does is allow us to get the middle school kids out and come back for kids grades three through five (using the same buses),” Slater said.

Castaic becomes the fourth Santa Clarita Valley school system to implement a busing fee.

The William S. Hart Union High School District and the Newhall School District charge students $200 a year to ride the bus, and last fall the Sulphur Springs School District approved a fee of $60 per semester or $100 per year.

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State law exempts disabled students from such fees.


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