While a private school such as Hesperia Christian might deal with a budget shortfall by increasing tuition, public schools such as the Hesperia Unified School District generally must deal with state budget cuts by slashing its programs and services. Such is the nature of public education, and these are challenging times.


So it's no surprise that the district is looking at every option to deal with the loss of more than $5 million in state money. One of the areas the district is considering cuts it to its busing program. By decreasing the distance its buses travel to pick up students, the HUSD has created a planto save more than $800,000. And every hundred thousand dollars or so helps.


The problem is students aren't widgets, they're people. And in this day and age where the faces of registered sex offenders regularly appear in the area's daily newspaper, parents -- especially those who have girls -- are understandably concerned.


Under the plan, middle school students living within a 2.5-mile radius won't be eligible for busing. The radius for high school students will be expanded from 3 miles to 3.5. "When I was a kid, I walked miles to school through snow" actually could become true for some students living on the outer edges.


Let's put this in perspective. If your student had to walk from, let's say, El Centro Street to Hesperia High, there day would have to begin literally hours before the school bell sounded. At a brisk pace, a person can walk a mile in 20 minutes. Add a back pack full of books and a more comfortable place and it would be more like 30 minutes a mile. Three-and-a-half miles would probably take an hour and 45 minutes. When the student arrives to school -- considering they carried their books on the backs -- they would be drenched in sweat. After school, they'd face another shirt-soaking walk back home.


A bike ride would be much more do-able. At 10 miles an hour, a rider could make it to school in about 35 minutes. More of us -- including students -- need exercise, so bike riding might be a good option. But the school district should provide secure bike storage and proctors who would monitor the major streets to give a sense of security.


For what it's worth, school district administrators are aware that the busing plan isn't going to be popular.


"This has no impact on the classroom," Mark McKinney, the district's superintendent, said not long ago. "This has a significant impact on parents. I understand that."


The district's busing changes could be workable, but parents have every reason to be concerned.


***


After learning about school board member Bruce Minton's health scare earlier this year, it was no surprise that he might have to step down from office. But that knowledge doesn't lessen the sense of sadness that the moment has actually come. It's sad that he has to leave office at such a pivotal time in the school district's history. But the adage, "If you have your health, you have everything," is true.


Serving on the HUSD Board of Trustees can be grueling, and Minton has certainly been in the middle of more than one board scuffle. He stood strong and tall for his convictions. That's all we could ask for any public servant.


Good luck, Mr. Minton. Thank you for your service.