Assembly OKs transport funds for homeless students

Taxis, after-school activity buses part of $84,000 allocation

Posted: Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Juneau Assembly has assured that students without a home won't go without a ride to and from school next year.

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The Assembly approved an ordinance Tuesday night to appropriate $84,000 for after-school activity buses and transportation for students who are homeless.

Superintendent Peggy Cowan said the appropriation was important to provide stable educational opportunities to students with unstable living situations.

"Students do better if they stay in the same class and have the same teachers and stay in the same school," Cowan said. "Even if their homeless status causes them to move out of the geographic boundary area that would be for one school, then the district pays for them to get transported in some other manner besides the bus."

The students are primarily transported by taxicabs because of the geography of the borough and because buses are limited to certain areas of town, Cowan said.

"It's good for kids and allows them the best opportunity to succeed because if we have a lot of transients moving from school to school to school then that is detrimental to their success," she said.

Of the money appropriated, $21,000 is designated for homeless transportation and $63,000 is set aside for after-school activity buses. Although an audit has yet to confirm the figure, the school district reported spending $19,262 for homeless transportation in the 2006 fiscal year and $59,312 for the activity buses.

David Means, director of administrative services for the district, said this should be the end of the budgeting process for the 2007 fiscal year, which began July 1.

The district's operating budget for the next year is roughly $52 million.

Means said the activity buses are primarily used for middle school students participating in sports and other after-school activities.

Some of the funds also are used to further the education of elementary students, Cowan said. For example, the money covers transportation for Gastineau Elementary School students who live on the northern section of Douglas Island and don't have other means of transportation.

"So it's for both activities, but it's also for students who stay to do their homework and work with their teachers," she said.

• Eric Morrison can be reached at eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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