Hesperia Unified elementary students will have one more thing to keep track of in the new school year: bus passes.


"The primary reason for bus passes [is] better accurate accounting of who rides our buses," said Assistant Superintendent of Financial Services Dave McLaughlin, "ensuring that in these days of tight budgets we're only transporting those kids who are eligible, according to the board policy."


The school district is also enforcing previously approved walking distances for students, meaning only kindergarteners who live more than three-quarters of a mile away from their neighborhood school are eligible for busing, along with 1st through 6th graders who live more than a mile away from school. The enforcement means that some old bus stops will no longer be in use in the new school year.


"We were able to reduce quite a few routes" when the change was previously made for secondary school students. "In this case, we're projecting we could save as much as 10 buses, which could be as much as $500,000."


Although half a million dollars is a major savings for the cash-strapped district, the busing changes aren't a cure-all for HUSD's financial woes.


"We've lost around $20 million over the last three years," McLaughlin said. "It'll help, but it won't solve all our problems."


School sites are notifying families of the changes, and sites will be issuing temporary bus passes the first day of school, with permanent passes issued at the end of August.


As for families that haven't gotten the message by Aug. 8 and have their students show up at now-defunct bus stops, the regular buses will still stop there, at least for a while.


"If they're at the bus stop the first day of school, they'll get a ride," McLaughlin said. "We're doing everything we can to communicate over the next three weeks and we're going to do everything we can to ensure the safety of our kids."


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.