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Sunday, August 18, 2013
It is no small miracle that for at least two decades Radford’s children have managed to get to the bus stop each morning with their peanut butter sandwiches, math homework, two matching socks and four dimes — two for the trip to school and two to get back home.
No quarters, mind you, though they are more easily clutched by tiny fingers.
Exact change was encouraged, and thus the smallest coin made by the U.S. Mint became the gold standard for the Radford City School system.
Of course, kindly bus drivers know that children sometimes misplace their fares. Drivers always kept extra coins on hand for the forgetful and the needy.
But starting this year, bus drivers and riders need not fret if their purses contain no likeness of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The 20-cent bus fare is no more.
“We have eliminated it, and the community is just delighted,” said Pat Harrison, transportation director for the school system. “Just try to imagine having to scrape up two dimes as your kid is heading out the door to school.”
“It’s going to be a lot less stress for parents, students and the drivers,” added Mitzi Crosier, who’s been driving one of the buses for seven years. “Parents have enough on their minds trying to keep up with homework and books.”
How did officials arrive at the diminutive fee?
“Honestly, I have no idea,” Harrison said. “It’s been 20 cents forever.”
The fees have been in place since at least the early 1990s, she said. At the time, the school system was too small to afford its own buses.
Radford City obtained a grant that enabled it to operate a transit system for the school, a deal requiring its tiny customers be charged for the service.
The school system is still small. It currently has fewer than 1,600 student and five primary bus routes covering 9.4 square miles.
But over the past decade, school leaders have started picking up the fees for students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches.
Those children now account for nearly half of the student body, Harrison said. As the school system increased its financial stake in the buses, the city strained to maintain the transit service and its mechanical staff dwindled. Both sides agreed that the city would sign the buses over to the school system.
Transportation costs will now be incorporated into the education budget, as is typical in most communities, and parents will have one fewer thing to stress over each weekday.
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