BEATRICE – Faced with increasing costs, the Beatrice School District is examining an increase in the district’s pay-to-ride bus transportation option.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jackie Nielsen says parents currently pay $130 a year…payable on a monthly basis…for their child to ride the bus.

"We also know we have a current contract with First Student until 2025...and that allows a three to four percent increase yearly, so we know that rates will continue to go up. We also know that the price of diesel is going up, as well as the price of staffing. So, we are going to recommend we do increase our bus transportation fee. We would like to increase it to $160, to cover the increased cost of diesel and staffing....but please note, any student that qualifies for free or reduced lunch, will be able to waive this fee."

It costs the district about $56,000 per month to offer transportation. This year, a total of 639 students have been riding the bus. Breaking that down, there are 137 preschoolers riding….321 in K-through-5th grades…109 at the middle school and 72 at the high school.  This year, the district cut two routes from its bus schedule.

"We also reduced the neighborhood stops. We had a lot of places where we were going a block, stopping....another block, stopping....we said, no more of that. Some students may have to walk a little bit farther, but it has worked out."

Reducing the two routes has saved the district about $12,000 per month.

During a school board committee-level meeting Thursday night, Nielsen said the district is also considering a ten-cent increase in the cost of breakfast and lunch in the school district…because of at least two factors.  "Trouble finding supplies...we know that is a valid concern. We're also having trouble staffing."

Nielsen says schools are waiting to see if Congress will reauthorize the USDA to continue Covid-period waivers that allowed schools to offer meals at no cost to students.  The proposed cost increase will not be considered until the June meeting of the Beatrice School Board…allowing time in case a possible extension of the free meal program comes through.