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Ventura County Star (California)
The Ventura Unified School District board heard a presentation on athletics and athletic transportation at Tuesday night's meeting — something trustees asked for more information on after several parents and students from one high school raised concerns at a previous meeting.
Parents and students involved in the baseball program at Foothill Technology High School went to a board meeting in April and spoke about trouble getting students transported to practice and games, and said that in some cases students were carpooling to practice or needed last-minute parental help to get somewhere as opposed to students being taken in buses or vans provided by the district.
Foothill Technology High School wasn't built to be a school with an athletic program. An athletic program came to fruition years later, but the campus isn't equipped to hold the teams or their needs, so the students go offsite for sports. Most sports use facilities at Ventura College, but the baseball program has had trouble finding a more permanent home.
At the same meeting Tuesday evening, the board approved a bid to renovate the baseball field at De Anza Academy of Technology and the Arts School, which will be used by Foothill Technology baseball students when it is completed.
Joe Richards, deputy superintendent of business services for the district, gave the presentation to the board Tuesday about the transportation in the district, the history of athletics at the school and the finances involved with both.
"Athletics was not thought to become part of the school at the time it was built," Richards said during the meeting.
The facilities cost for Foothill athletics has grown over the years as the teams and the program have expanded. There are now 37 teams at the high school, with about 30 students involved in the baseball program at the junior varsity and varsity levels.
Transportation was the main concern among parents and students aired public comments at the last board meeting. Richards said except for special education, the district is not required to provide transportation. Ventura Unified, however, provides home-to-school transportation for students.
"That's the primary mission of our transportation department," Richards said. "Everything else is secondary. ... Secondary things would be field trips and athletics."
The district gets about $1.4 million in transportation funds, but is spending about $4.1 million on transportation. Difficulties in transportation across the board, not just at Foothill, include an aging fleet, limited vans, a driver shortage and increasing demands.
"Foothill added 37 teams and we didn't increase our (bus) fleet," Richards said. "That's a big thing. Teams are also expanding. So where they might have needed two buses to transport them, they now need three."
At the meeting Tuesday evening, Foothill Principal Joe Bova suggested the district consider purchasing vans for the high school to help with shuttling students to practices, but also using them for other school needs.
"If the school had some vans, it would take a load off the overall transportation problems," Bova told The Star. He also noted that it might not be so simple due to a tight budget at the district.
But Bova said he is happy the baseball team soon will have a place to go now, with approval of the bid to start working on the new field.
"I'm really thankful the board approved the field last night," Bova said. "It's nice to know we will have a home for the baseball program ... and that future teams will have the ability to use it."
In terms of remedying the transportation troubles, Richards said the district is looking at improving communications with sites about transportation and holding regular meetings, adding more routes and buses, and potentially purchasing vans.
"We are looking at a lot of different remedies," Superintendent David Creswell said in an email to The Star. "Some remedies have a price tag, others don't. We are trying to investigate all of the issues and all of the possible solutions."
Creswell said the district is "committed to making this right."
"We clearly have some issues and areas of needed improvement with transportation," Creswell said in an email. "Our primary responsibility of getting students from home to school is in better shape than the secondary priority of field trips and athletic transportation. Both will be reviewed. Our transportation funding from the state covers about a third of our current costs. Within the district there is work to be done with procedures, scheduling, and follow through to name a few ... I am sorry for the missteps that have occurred and make no excuse for them. I also deeply appreciate the patience that has been displayed."
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