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Fewer students on school buses

With fewer students in school this year than last, it is hardly surprising that fewer children are riding the school bus.

But what is surprising was the percentage of ridership decrease between last school year and this year.

South Whidbey School District transportation supervisor Margaret Evans reported to the board of education Monday night that ridership is down by 4 percent. That, she said, is more than she expected.

Bus drivers took a count of student riders during the district's annual ridership week earlier this month. The results showed bus ridership dropping from 1,319 daily riders in 2001 to 1,174 this year.

Affecting the count to a certain degree, Evans said, was a drop in enrollment of 125 students between the district's primary and intermediate schools. Langley Middle School was the only school with more students this year than last.

"They were up 1.8 percent or 18 students," Evans said.

Special education remained the same with 43 students.

What the ridership drop means is less money to fund transportation needs in the district.

Still, Evans looked to the bright side, noting that fewer students means lower transportation costs. With employee wage costs, equipment costs and mileage down, the district is still receiving enough transportation money from the state to cover about 70 percent of its busing costs.

Every year during the first week in October, Washington school districts count the number of students taking the bus to school to determine the level of state funding for transportation.

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