Wareham Public Schools bus transportation fee approved
Wareham families will have to pay for transportation to public schools beginning next year.
Officials cited rising costs as the reason for implementing the fees, which were approved by the School Committee on May 9.
Families will pay $100 for the first student using transportation, $75 for the second student in the family, and $50 for the third student, with a family cap of $225, said Transportation Manager Jamie Andrews.
While the town pays for the purchase of new vehicles and maintenance, the School Department's costs for transportation are skyrocketing due to an increase in driver salaries, increased costs for services for students who live out of the district, and a greater number of routes, officials said.
Out of a total of 2,176 students in the district, 546 will need to pay fees for transportation, Andrews said.
Families of children in kindergarten through sixth grade must pay the fee if a student is bused fewer than 2 miles from their home to the school. Massachusetts law requires that students in kindergarten through sixth grade who live more than 2 miles away be transported free of charge.
Families of students in grades seven through 12 will pay the fee regardless of the number of miles.
Families with children whose mandated "individual education plans" include transportation will not have to pay transportation fees.
Students who are identified by the state as eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch will qualify for a full waiver of the bus fee.
Presently, around 1,600 students are bused to school in Wareham, said Business Manager Michael MacMillan. He estimates that the School Department could receive around $40,000 from the transportation fee.
The School Committee was split on whether to approve the fee. Vice-Chair Mary Morgan noted that more parents may drive their children to school with a fee in place.
Ultimately, the fees were approved by a vote of 3-2, with Morgan and Rebekah Pratt voting against the measure.
Families must apply for a bus pass by June 15 in order for children to be included in the upcoming year's bus routes. Payment of fees, if required, is due by this date. Bus passes will be issued, and no child will be permitted to ride a bus without one.
Officials said the June deadline could help in planning bus routes, which could reduce inefficiencies and save up to $170,000 for the district.
No cash or personal checks will be accepted for the fee. Money orders and bank checks must be made payable to "Town of Wareham - Bus Fee" and mailed or returned, with an application, to the school each student attends.