BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – As school districts across Colorado navigate a return to in-person classes amid COVID-19, a parent in the Boulder Valley School District says the lack of bus transportation available to students is discriminatory. Maxine Most told CBS4 the district’s decision to not bus any high school students, unless they have a disability, is unfair to low income families.
“People rely on busing as part of the education system,” Most told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.
Most, a single parent of a 15 year old who was on free and reduced lunch last year, said she cannot take time off of work to transport her daughter to class. Not only is her daughter too young to drive right now, but the family cannot afford a vehicle or insurance that would come with letting her child drive herself when she turns 16.
Most said her daughter attends Monarch High School. According to Most, Monarch High is surrounded by communities made predominantly of middle-to-upper class families. She said those families can afford to live in neighborhoods which are easier to walk from, and also can afford cars for their students.
“We are literally four miles from our neighborhood school,” Most said. “I rely on BVSD busing to get my daughter back and forth to school. I am a single-working parent, I don’t have the option of driving her back and forth.”
Most said many lower income families for that school live anywhere from two-to-five miles away from campus.
“(The district’s busing decision) disproportionately impacts the low- and moderate-income people who can least afford to bare that burden,” Most said.
District Chief Communications Officer Randy Barber told CBS4 the district was fortunate to have the busing they do, as just weeks prior the state guidelines would have allowed roughly 10 students per bus. Most buses can sit upwards of 75 people.
He acknowledged the situation for high school students was not ideal, but was quick to shut down any sentiments that the district discriminated on students in any fashion.
“At some point we don’t have enough buses and drivers to serve everybody,” Barber said.
Barber said the district was following health guidelines by limiting the number of students on buses. He said they were also following state law by making sure students with disabilities were guaranteed transportation to class.
From there, knowing most high school students are more independent than younger children, the district chose to prioritize transportation of students in elementary schools and then middle.
“This is a very difficult situation. This is not the way we would like it to be. We are in the middle of a global pandemic. During a crisis you have to make tough decisions sometimes,” Barber said. “We had to start somewhere, and we focused on our younger students and our students with special needs.”
Some high schools have RTD bus stops outside of their buildings, allowing students the option to ride public transportation. Most said her daughter’s school is the only high school of the five closest that does not have a RTD stop outside of it.
Barber said the district does, and will, work with RTD to continue building convenient bus stops for students. He added the district would continue to work with health officials to safely increase bus routes for more students.
School districts across Colorado are not required, by law, to offer bussing for students without disabilities. Most offer the busing as a courtesy and a tool.
Most said she was overwhelmingly pleased with the education her daughter receives with BVSD, and said she has never before had an issue with administration. She said, however, she hoped the district would revaluate their busing policy to create more opportunity for students who live further away.
“I know everyone is working really hard around extraordinary circumstances. But, whatever solution they provide has to be an equitable one. You can’t create the dynamic where in person learning is only available to those who have the socioeconomic means to get their high schooler to school,” Most said.