South Bay schools were back in session Monday, and more students than usual felt the strict budget cuts during the new term.
The cash-strapped Sweetwater Union High School District cut dozens of bus stops for the 2019-2020 school year, forcing more students to walk the sometimes miles-long trek to class.
Twenty bus stops were cancelled for Eastlake High School, Olympian High School, Otay Ranch High School and San Ysidro High School. And 10 more were cut from other schools in the district.
District officials said the cuts were necessary, especially after the completion of a safe sidewalk on Old Otay Mesa Road, which serves as the main path to San Ysidro High.
The sidewalk was built after nearly 20 years of complaints about the dangerous stretch of road. And city officials said students will no longer risk the possibility of being struck by a car walking in the street.
Though even with a newly-paved path, some fear the hot weather may be too much for the students’ long walk.
Parents continued their protest over the route cuts Monday evenig at a district board meeting.
"When the times changes and its very dark in the morning or in the afternoon, walking through its very dangerous for them. Anything can happen," one parent said.
The district acknowledged parents' continued pleas and asked for a few weeks to analyze bus use for this school year. They said they could potentially alter routes based on how many students are using them, or remap walking routes to provide students with a safer route to campus.
Parents and students marched in protest of the cancelled stops on July 16, walking several miles from Willow Elementary School to San Ysidro High School. The group of about 30 people said it was to demonstrate how long the journey is for kids.
The families held signs that read, “We want buses for our students. Stop school cutbacks,” during the peaceful protest.
People who marched told NBC 7 that some students are prepared to stage a school walk-out, which could cost the district thousands of dollars, with each absent student costing about $200.
In all, officials with the Sweetwater Union High School District said budget cuts are needed to climb out of its millions of dollars’ worth of debt.
Earlier this month, officials announced there were not enough working laptops for its students after it did not collect more than $600,000 in fees. The district also decided in recent months to eliminate 82 positions, including bus drivers, custodians and people who help with Special Education.