Published Online: July 10, 2014

Lincoln mulls bus, van transit for homeless pupils

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — School officials in Lincoln are asking the Board of Education to acquire more buses and vans so the district no longer has to use taxis to transport homeless children to and from school.

Federal law requires that public schools pay transportation costs to get students to and from their home school when they become homeless, the Lincoln Journal Star said (http://bit.ly/1mCC162 ). Federal grants reimburse a portion of the district's cost. The Lincoln district budgets $320,000 a year for the transportation, and most of it is used for taxi service.

Very few, if any, of the children served by the district live on the streets, said Lincoln Public Schools homeless outreach specialist Bryan Seck. But they often live at six or seven addresses within a school year. Federal law and the district try to provide some stability, Seck said.

"We always try to keep a kid at their original school," he said.

Of the homeless students in the district last year, 142 lived in shelters, 44 lived in motels and 173 were with family or friends. Of the total, 55 were on their own, Seck said.

District officials say buses would reduce any stigma attached to being dropped off at school by a taxi.

Single dad David Proctor said that's important to his four children, ages 8 to 15.

Proctor told the newspaper that he couldn't afford to pay the family's apartment rent so they had to move into the People's City Mission. A school district official arranged to provide taxis, but Proctor said the taxis often couldn't get the kids to school on time or pick them up right after classes ended.

But he also didn't like it when his two oldest children had to take city buses to reach their school.

Buying four 30-passenger buses and two seven-passenger vans would cost $244,000 to $304,000, which officials said would be offset by savings on transportation costs. Savings from this year and next year's budgets would be used to buy the vehicles, said Liz Standish, associate superintendent of business affairs.

Standish estimated that it would take seven years for the vehicles to pay for themselves. The district would have to pay about $150,000 a year to operate them, she said.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com


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