PORTLAND — A policy change by the School Committee last week will allow about 230 students at Portland and Deering high schools to be bused to school.
Prior to last week’s action, high school students were bused by exception only. Now, students living more than two miles from school will have the option of taking the bus.
Superintendent James C. Morse Sr. recommended expanding school bus service to high school students as a way of keeping students in school.
“This is a concrete step that we are taking to help address the problem of students dropping out,” Morse said.
Two new routes, totalling an estimated 3,500 miles, will be added to the current bus schedule, according to Kevin Mallory, school transportation director.
Mallory said the new routes will cost nearly $1,300. Funding exists within the current budget, he said, because several bus routes were eliminated when new school buses with greater capacity were added to the fleet.
The cost of the new routes is attributed only to fuel, which city officials expect to remain at around $2 a gallon, Mallory said.
When gas prices were at an all-time high last year, there was pressure to reduce bus miles by making routes more efficient. That effort led to one proposal to eliminate bus service for 35 students attending Presumpscot Elementary School. That proposal was defeated because of safety concerns and the possible unintended consequence of increased truancy among low-income students.
The School Committee will review the expanded bus program with Mallory in the spring.