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CPSD's transportation department looks at changing cost of field trips

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SHREVEPORT, La. -

The wheels on the bus might go round and round, but the cost to keep the Caddo Parish School Buses rolling goes up and up.

These buses drive 10,000 miles just to get the students to and from school each day, but it's the 31,000 extra trips a year that cost the school district.

"Our extracurricular trips include not only athletics, special ed, Title I," said Otis Jones, director of transportation for the Caddo Parish School District. "We have trips that are basically academic in nature where we transport students from one program to another at different schools."

The school district spent $804,187.86 a year to take the students on these trips.

For the cost of the driver and the bus, each school is charged only $30 for in town trips, $75 to go out-of-town and $100 for overnight. These prices have not changed for at least 15 years.

"When you look at the cost of fuel and the maintenance cost and the upkeep for the buses, $30 for a local trip and $100 for going out of town… is a big bargain," said Jones.

A 2012 audit of the district's transportation department suggests raising those prices and reducing the number of over night and out of town trips the school buses take.

The audit's recommendations came up in a transportation committee meeting in early September.

Committee chair and school board member Mary Trammel said options were discussed.

"We looked at cost of the field trip, how much we can increase it," she said. "We looked at trying to reduce the amount of trips that they take. And these are things that we have to talk to principals about to find what kind of trip it is: is it educational? Is it a trip we can do without? Or is it something you think will enhance the learning experience for the children?"

Who would cover the higher costs—either the school or passed on to the student—has yet to be determined. However educators believe the trips are worth the investment.

"Extra trips impact our school because they're always an extension of our education, of our learning environment," said Dr. Cedric Ellis, principal at Woodlawn Leadership Academy.

Ellis tries to ensure that all trips benefit the students. He only approves a trip if the students will learn or experience something new.

"A lot of time, our kids do not get the opportunity to leave their prospective neighborhoods," said Ellis. "Field trips allow them that opportunity to do so."

An option to increase how much each school would pay for a bus trip is still in the very early stages. Concerns about the impact on groups like special education and Title I came up. That's why trammel wants to include those groups in the discussion.

"We're going to look at cost that would be across the board that they could afford," she said. "We can't just jump up right now and say we're going to that because we have to find out what their budgets look like."

Trammel and Jones thinks a change will probably happen for next school year.


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