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LCPS Board Establishes 2022 Legislative Funding Priorities, Voicing Need For After-School Buses

Sep 22, 2021

Credit Arvind Balaraman / www.freedigitalphotos.net

After-school activity buses could soon be coming to Las Cruces Public Schools, giving students who rely on bus transportation the opportunity to participate in after-school programs.

The LCPS Board of Education voted unanimously to make the activity bus program a 2022 legislative funding priority, requesting that the New Mexico School Boards Association support the legislation to secure funding. Spearheading the request is District 2 Board Member Pamela Cort, who says she is working to provide equitable opportunities for all LCPS students.

“It would be a wise move to have an activity bus that left later in the school day for middle school and high school kids,” Cort said. “There is a true correlation between how active you are in school and whether you have found your tribe and your community. The students who take the bus are missing out on those golden opportunities to find their place in high school.”

Currently, 59% of middle and high school students utilize bus transportation within the district. The district’s goal is to secure enough funding to enable each middle and high school to have its own activity bus.

District 3 Board Member Maria Flores says she’s hopeful the additional transportation will enable more kids to take advantage of after-school programs.

“It's been something we've been wanting for a long time, to extend the buses to be available for our students,” Flores said. “And I know that a lot of students miss out because they don't have transportation.”

While supportive of the resolution, District 4 Board Member Teresa Tenorio worried about some of the logistical hurdles, such as how many drop-off locations each bus would travel to.

“I love it. I think it's a great idea,” Tenorio said. “One concern I have of just logistics, is if you're at a school with one activity bus waiting for the kids to finish, and let's say there's 10-20 kids, are they all from the same kind of similar routes if they're at the same school?”

District 2’s Pamela Cort says drop-off locations will be more centralized than on normal bus routes, potentially stopping once per neighborhood.

“What you would do is you would have more central drop-off points, which gets them closer to their residence, but not having them drop off kids in front of every single home,” Cort said. “And in the research I did, that's what a lot of school districts were doing with their activity buses, is that they created a central drop-off point.”

The board also voted to request legislative appropriations support to stabilize certified staff salary increases, citing a need to be competitive with staff recruitment and retention.

NEA-Las Cruces President Denise Sheehan, who also advocated for smaller class sizes and additional planning time, says that salary increases are a necessity. She says that educators in the district are overwhelmed, many working two or three additional jobs just to keep up with the cost of living.

“We are abusing our educators, not just in our state, but nationwide,” Sheehan said. “We are in a crisis, and we need to do things differently. We've got to stop this abuse on our educators before we are faced with an even larger shortage come December.”

LCPS Board President Ray Jaramillo says legislative support is greatly needed — half of New Mexico educators leave teaching within five years of graduating from their own educator preparation programs.

“I brought this forward. I think it was important that the legislators understand the process of making the teacher cost index align with what we'll be doing, and I think that they should support it financially,” Jaramillo said.