District working to fix sports-bus crisis 

District officials are scrambling to provide service to Sequoia High School athletes after their program overspent its transportation allowance using charter buses to shuttle teams to and from games.

Sequoia’s athletic director, Adrian Dilley, notified students and parents this week that the program was over budget and buses would be canceled for the rest of the school year, according to Pat Gemma, superintendent of the Sequoia High School District. Officials hope to reassure students that the district has a longstanding policy of providing in-house bus service for themwhen they attend games and sports events in other parts of the county.

Sports teams use traditional yellow buses when they’re available, but the drivers of those buses are often occupied taking students home from school, meaning athletes must leave classes early when drivers are available, Gemma said. When that can’t happen, they use charters, even though yellow buses cost a third of what charters do.

"I feel like I’m stuck in a catch-22; either students can miss classes and take the yellow buses, or they can stay through the school day and take a charter bus," Dilley told Sequoia High School District board members Wednesday. "Either a lot of class time is being missed, or we spend $600 to $800 per trip for students to get to San Mateo, more for games in South San Francisco."

Dilley said he had "no choice" but to tell parents there was no money left for transportation costs.

Although the board agreed to re-examine its bus policies at a future meeting, the district must develop an immediate solution so that athletes can continue to participate in off-campus events, Gemma said.

Board member Gordon Lewin agreed. The district last examined its policy of guaranteeing bus service for sports teams six years ago, but it may be time for district officials to revisit the topic and develop plans to keep more bus drivers handy — and backup plans for when they aren’t available, he said.

"The bigger picture is, we want to have a way to have backup drivers over time so we can do this in-house," Lewin said. "It’s not cost-effective to use charter buses ... so we need to figure out, operationally, how to avoid this in the future."

Although Sequoia is the only school to exceed its sports-transportation budget this year, the issue is likely to affect other schools before the end of the year, according to board member Lorraine Rumley.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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