CUSD cuts off bus routes to Boys & Girls Club
Parents are left scrambling to find transportation after school
When the Chico Unified School District decided to sever its tie with the Boys & Girls Club of Chico back in May, Chelcee FitzGerald became upset. Her son, who attends Rosedale Elementary, had benefited greatly from the program—and she knew other kids had, too.
“My son’s at school all day to be at school, but after school I want him to be somewhere different,” FitzGerald said. “I’m a registered nurse. I could pay somebody to watch him. But nothing is as good as the Boys & Girls Club.”
She’s in a different boat from many of the parents whose children attended the club last year, many of whom are enrolled in on-campus programs this school year—she paid her own way, coughing up about $250 a year to use CUSD buses. She explained she wanted the after-school grant funds to go to another kid who needed it more.
When the district decided to keep that grant money—awarded only to low-income and low-performing schools—on campus, it agreed to still send buses to the club for those parents who chose to send their kids there.
“They said it would be no problem,” FitzGerald said. “They said, call in the middle of August and pay for his transportation. But when I called, the lady said, ‘We can’t offer that this year.’”
Kip Hansen, director of maintenance, operations and transportation at the district, explained that the loss of transportation funding from the grants had forced his department to consolidate routes and make other changes.
“The size of bus and route time is designed for home-to-school transportation,” he said. “The relationship between home-to-school transportation and the Boys & Girls Club transportation doesn’t work.”
But for parents who work, having their kids dropped off at an empty home makes no sense.
“We both work full time. We can’t provide the transportation ourselves,” said Connie Torres, whose two children are among the 100 who currently are enrolled in the after-school program at the BGC.
Torres said she’s willing to pay the full cost for transportation and is confused about the exception when it comes to the BGC. “It doesn’t make any sense why they would take him to an empty home and not to a place where he could benefit from all the activities that are offered at the Boys & Girls Club.”
These kinds of complaints have Rashell Brobst, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club, wondering what’s going on—the district expressly stated it had been happy with the club’s services, but the sudden decision not to offer transportation makes her wonder if there’s not something more sinister going on.
Emily Lowe has two children who attend the Boys & Girls Club after-school program. They’ve been going there for about four years, and she doesn’t want that to stop anytime soon.
“The Boys & Girls Club has been great,” Lowe said. “It’s the best place for my son. He has behavioral issues, and I’ve tried different daycares because no one could really handle him. But the Boys & Girls Club has found ways to help him. I’m a single mom; I can’t afford to send him to daycare.”
Lowe’s son, Ryan, is in an Individual Education Program (IEP), which ensures him transportation to the BGC after school due to federal guidelines. But when his bus picks him up at Citrus Elementary, he’ll be the only one on it going to the club, regardless of whether other parents at the school are willing to pay the district to drop their kids off there.
“The only busing to the Boys & Girls Club is going to be for special-needs students—that’s required by law,” Hansen said.
When asked if the district’s policy of setting up a special drop-off zone when 10 children request and pay to be dropped off at a specific location would apply to the Boys & Girls Club, Hansen said, “No.”
Lowe’s other child, who attends Little Chico Creek, doesn’t have the option of taking a district bus to her after-school program at BGC. So Lowe is in a pickle. She could pay for the CARD after-school program offered at Little Chico Creek, which she can’t afford. She could take time off work to drive her daughter to the Boys & Girls Club. Or she can sign up for the Cabs 4 Kids route the club set up in lieu of the district route, which costs a bit more. As of Tuesday, a day before school started, she was undecided.
“It’s scary not knowing and not having that peace of mind knowing your kids are taken care of,” she said.
“For years Chico Unified has provided transportation for my kids. Now it seems like they don’t want to work with the parents,” she said. “It seems like politics on behalf of Chico Unified, and they’re really cutting off the kids.”