By Diane Ako
Public schools have been in session for a week now, and instead of walking more than 1-1/2 miles to school, Nicholas and Hayden Rice ride in the comfort of a school bus to Webling Elementary School in Aiea.
Anne Rice, the mother of the two children, sent her children off to school this year with a wave. Last year, she would walk 7-year-old Nicholas and 5-year-old Hayden to and from the school.
“We celebrate the restoration of these much-needed buses for some of these students,” said Hawaii State Rep. K. Mark Takai (D-Aiea). “I will continue to work to restore the other bus routes cut last year.”
For nearly 200 students in Aiea, this school year began with a ride aboard a school bus. Unlike the start of last school year, when students living in Aiea Height and Halawa Heights either needed to find another ride or walk to school.
“I applaud Mark Takai for tirelessly working to restore the bus route for Webling Elementary and the other schools in Aiea and Pearl City area. He has actively addressed the concerns of parents regarding the safety of our children walking along very dangerous routes to and from school,” Rice said.
“Students cannot learn without being in school and some of these students will not go to school without bus service,” Takai added.
Last year, Takai successfully urged the Hawaii Board of Education (BOE) to use $8 million in Impact Aid to restore bus service for public school students.
“The DOE reduced the cuts from 20,000 students to 2,380 students," said Takai, who called the final plans for last year “still totally unacceptable.”
The Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) is rolling out the first phase of its “Get on Board” initiative, a multi-year, multi-faceted commitment to reform its public school student bus transportation system.
The initiative kicks off on the first day of school, Monday, August 5, and will serve as many as 1,000 students at 30 schools who use buses in the Aiea, Moanalua, Pearl City, Radford and Waipahu High complex areas.
“I applaud the new DOE Get on Board initiative. The DOE has listened to the concerns of cost and developed a system that is both responsive to the needs of our students, while tailored to efficiencies and cost containment,” Takai said.
“We are hoping the Department of Education's Get on Board initiative restores SAFE school bus service for all the children of Hawaii whose bus service was eliminated last year,” Rice added.
The first phase will reflect routes from last year and includes route restoration to Aiea Heights, Halawa Heights and Waikele Elementary School attendance areas.
One of the more significant features of the Get on Board initiative is the use of a technology solution that includes routing software, GPS tracking on the buses, and an updated and contemporary contracting and procurement process. The DOE is planning to implement Get on Board at all Oahu schools by 2014-2015, and then statewide the following school year.