Palisades High is an amazing Charter High School, but as an independent charter, they receive less funding per student than other LAUSD schools, so Palisades relies heavily on parent participation. Sometimes tough decisions are made when it comes to the school’s budget and this year one of those decisions was to cut the transportation to and from Topanga.
Even though parents paid for the bus, the high cost of school bus transportation meant that the school had been subsidizing the cost. According to the school, cost increases in the student transportation industry have been increasing 10-20 percent per year.
When the bus was canceled just weeks before school started, a scramble ensued among parents to find alternatives. Unfortunately, none of them was viable on such short notice; each either required up-front payment for the year or a minimum number of students. Many parents managed to organize into carpools and have been making the trek through the canyon to Pacific Palisades each morning and afternoon.
Without a school bus solution, parents explored how the Topanga Beach Bus could become more user-friendly for canyons kids. The idea of children being stranded and not knowing how long until the next bus would arrive was not a happy thought. While LA County was not able to accommodate the multiple parent requests for an earlier start to the bus route, they did manage to add a tracker to the Topanga Beach Bus, and it has proved a popular and affordable method of transport for some students returning home.
Jill Gower, a mom of three children, summed it up best: “The bus is great. I honestly don’t understand why more families aren’t using it. The tracking system works well, and the helpline is also a great resource. I will miss having a carpool—I like seeing how the kids are doing, but the driving just doesn’t make sense for our family. The same people use the bus daily. It’s safe and I think it teaches real-world responsibility.”
At just $1 a ride it’s truly a great deal. The County did manage to add a Topanga Beach Bus GPS feature (transitsystems.biz/topanga/) that the service provider has set up. It provides an approximate location of the service vehicle and alerts drivers that patrons are waiting at specified stops. The service provider has agreed to share the link with bus passengers.
Don Parcell, Director of Operations at Palisades Charter High School, has continued efforts to find solutions. Parents have now been contacted by a fellow Palisades parent, Shanda Johnson, who started her own bus company. Johnson’s company already serves Larchmont Charter with buses and is offering a van carpool through her company, Kiddy-Karpool.
She explained that her company was born out of a desire simply to help the kids and make family life less hectic. With this in mind, she started driving the route herself, got a feel of it and adapted to parents’ needs by adding stops in Woodland Hills at Dumetz and another one at the Post Office on Topanga Canyon Boulevard.
Johnson, who is licensed and insured, is driving through the canyon every day and if your kid needs a ride to Palisades Charter you should let her know. She has stops in Woodland Hills and the Canyon to Palisades and back.
If your child is a student at Palisades Charter and needs a ride, contact her at (323) 252-5780.
By Katz Jones