Colorado School District Cuts Bus Service

Budget cuts are hitting home in Colorado. The Adams 12 school district in the suburbs of Denver chose to cut its bus service rather than increase class size last year. Now some middle-schoolers have to walk up to two miles.

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JEFF BRADY: I'm Jeff Brady in Colorado, where the governor's proposed budget includes about $300 million less for K through 12 education next year. That's on top of previous cuts, and it has school districts getting creative.

North of Denver, the Adams 12 district eliminated bus service for about 2,500 students. Now middle-schoolers, who live up to two miles from their school, have to find another way to get there.

(Soundbite of traffic)

BRADY: Near Coyote Gulch Elementary, it's clear a lot of parents are choosing to drive and there's a traffic jam most mornings. That created a safety hazard who students who walk.

Ms. ALLISON SWEETMAN: In the beginning of the school year, it was actually quite a dangerous situation. There were several near-misses out here.

BRADY: In response, parent Allison Sweetman began volunteering as a crossing guard.

Ms. SWEETMAN: There are kids on scooters and bikes and kids walking, most of them walking without their parents and right now I've got to take somebody across the street. Come on. So our job - like that guy right there is supposed to stop. He's not supposed to take a right-hand turn when there's pedestrians in the crosswalk. Have a good day. Our job's just to keep kids safe.

BRADY: Another parent, Christian Dickerson, lives about a mile from his daughter's school. He says budget cuts altered his family's morning routine.

Mr. CHRISTIAN DICKERSON: We changed it from walking just two blocks down to the bus stop now to getting in the car, driving there, waiting through the line of traffic, getting them into the school, and then coming back. Definitely it takes another 20, 30 minutes out of your morning.

BRADY: The school district chose to eliminate buses instead of increasing class sizes.

Across town at the Littleton School District, Superintendent Scott Murphy says everyone tries to keep cuts away from the classroom.

Mr. SCOTT MURPHY (Superintendent, Littleton School District): That's a nice thing to say. People like that. But ultimately the majority of our money is in the classrooms.

BRADY: Murphy says three years back, his district had 2,000 employees. Now there are only 1,600. He says a third of the positions cut were teachers.

(Soundbite of traffic)

BRADY: Back at Coyote Gulch Elementary, Allison Sweetman is taking off her crossing guard vest.

Ms. SWEETMAN: Now, notice the traffic's this way. 'Cause everyone's leaving the school and they're all trying to get out. Help. Get me out of this mess.

BRADY: In Colorado, the budget cuts this school year were difficult enough. Next year's cuts promise to be brutal. That has teachers across the state worrying that after they hand out grades before summer break, there will be nothing left for them but a pink slip.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Denver.

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