Dear Lamorinda School Bus Families,
It is with a heavy heart that we announce the temporary suspension of school bus service to our community, until further notice. We know there has been much stress and uncertainty in our community with the school closures that began in March, and the anticipation of school resuming in the fall. This was not a decision that was made lightly, and many factors were taken into consideration.
The safety of our students and drivers is our highest priority. On June 8, 2020, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond released the California Department of Education’s (CDE) guidance document “Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California’s Public Schools”
Stronger Together Guidelines
These guidelines had specific recommendations for school buses, highlighting the need to reduce seating capacity in order to practice physical distancing. In addition, the guidelines specify that an aide be assigned to all buses, to ensure distancing and to conduct symptom screenings. Our calculations estimate that this would allow for approximately fourteen students per bus. Typically, we have an average of thirty-six students per route, with several middle school routes completely at capacity with fifty-eight students per bus.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has had severe economic repercussions for many workers, businesses, and government agencies. The Lamorinda School Bus Program is no exception and has also been adversely affected by the financial impacts that resulted from this pandemic. We have been notified by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority that we will receive a 16 ½% reduction in our funding. This reduction in funding is a result of a loss in sales tax revenues, because of business closures due to the shelter in place orders issued by the County, starting on March 15, 2020. Sixty percent of our funding comes from Measure J, which is derived from the 1/2 cent sales tax in Contra Costa County dedicated to transportation.
Unlike some other school bus programs, that receive state funding for their school bus transportation, our model relies solely on Contra Costa Measure J Sales Tax Revenue and parent fees. Parent fees account for forty percent of our revenues. The reduction in ridership, with the addition of paying for aides to ride with our drivers, make providing our service impracticable until health orders allow these guidelines to be removed.
The Lamorinda School Bus program is under contractual obligations to notify First Student, our transportation provider, with a ninety-day notice to suspend service. We were optimistic that school would resume and that we would be able to provide regular service to our riders, understanding that we would see some reduction in ridership due to safety concerns from families. The new guidelines made it abundantly clear that it would be financially unfeasible for the program to resume in the Fall. On June 19, 2020, our Board voted unanimously to suspend service for the immediate future and to notify First Student of our intent to do so.
We understand the significant impact that a lack of school transportation will have on our parent and student community who rely on our services; we are exploring the availability of online resources for families to connect with other families in their class cohorts to develop carpools
When it was announced, in March, that schools would remain closed for the remainder of this past school year, the Lamorinda School Bus Board committed to refunding families for payments made towards unused bus service. Many parents opted to roll these funds towards service for the 2020-21 school year; we invite these parents to resubmit a new
Refund Request Form
All request for refunds must be submitted by July 15
. To the families who have already donated their unused funds towards our drivers and to our program directly, we thank you for your generosity. These donations will help ensure a seamless transition when we are able to resume our operations.
Please note, t
here are many limitations to our credit card processing system, and we will need to issue physical checks for all remaining refunds. Our offices are closed until July 6th, and our Accounting Department is operating in a limited capacity. Please be patient and be advised that it may take a few weeks to receive your refund.
We share the communities concern for our beloved drivers, that many of you have developed relationships with over the years. We are hopeful that some state funded programs in the area, who will need to temporarily increase their fleet sizes to address physical distancing, will be able to employee our drivers until our program can resume service.
Thank you for your participation in the Lamorinda School Bus Program. We appreciate your support and look forward to reinstating school bus service to our community when it is safe to do so.
Whitney Simon, Program Manager
Lamorinda School Bus Program
3675 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Suite 255
Lafayette, CA 94549