Although Moonridge resident Yanicsa Sonoqui remembers her time as a student at Hatch Elementary School fondly, when it came time to choose a school for her son, she settled on Farallone View Elementary. The waiting list for Hatch’s immersion program was too long and the early release times were not compatible with her work schedule. Plus, there was a school bus that could take her son directly to Farallone View.
That might change.
Included in the school board-approved districtwide budget cuts for next year is the elimination of elementary school busing for the Moonridge community and students from other low-income, mostly Latino, communities at Pillar Ridge and Main Street Park. According to Cabrillo Unified School District Superintendent Sean McPhetridge, the cuts would save $100,000 of the $2.6 million he needs to cut for the next academic year.
Sonoqui said that if the buses are cut, she will transfer her son to Hatch. According to a survey the district performed of Moonridge residents, nearly 90 percent of Moonridge parents gave the same response. For Sonoqui, the adjustment is doable, but she said that might not be true for all parents.
“Work is work,” Sonoqui said. “Not everyone gets the permission to get out and pick up your kid, bring them home or to the babysitter and then go back to work.”
At last month’s school board meeting, teachers, parents and community members raised concerns about the proposed cut to busing. In addition to creating logistical issues for parents, they said eliminating busing for low-income students would create overpopulation at Hatch and make district elementary schools less diverse.
Currently, Hatch’s student body is 56 percent Hispanic or Latino and 48 percent of students are categorized as socioeconomically disadvantaged. Farallone View has fewer students in the two categories while El Granada Elementary School has more.
Moonridge is zoned for Farallone View, and while parents have the option to transfer their kids elsewhere, both McPhetridge and Sonoqui said most families accept Farallone View as their school — in part because of the bus.
According to McPhetridge, if every Moonridge family decided to move their child to Hatch, it would add around 50 students to Hatch’s population. He said the district is working on estimates for Main Street Park and Pillar Ridge.
McPhetridge sees the change as a win for the budget, the environment and for the students and families that have to travel more than a half an hour to school. McPhetridge said that busing students away from their communities is detrimental to their health and their education.
“What I’ve seen ... is that (busing) has created academic concerns, behavioral concerns and social-emotional concerns for those students, which I think has taken a toll on families,” McPhetridge said.
From McPhetridge’s perspective, shifting students to Hatch will also foster a closer community at Hatch with elevated family engagement.
“I think it will facilitate more parent involvement, which we know is an important piece of academic progress,” McPhetridge said. “We have a problem with community involvement and inclusion of those families at Farallone View.”
But many teachers and parents disagree. They say they welcome all students but are worried that overpopulation at Hatch will stretch some resources thin. They also argue that removing busing eliminates school choice for low-income families entirely.
“I don’t agree with the argument that we’re doing the Moonridge kids a favor,” Hatch teacher Abigail Foster said. “The best education for all students is a balanced and diverse education.”
Teachers pointed to research that says diverse schools improve academic outcomes and said the boundary decisions were put in for a reason. Foster said she hopes the district considers the perspectives of all affected families and looks at the full implications of eliminating buses, such as increased absences as a potential unintended consequence.
“I just want to make sure the district is doing its due diligence,” Foster said.
Marina Stariha, who was a school board member when boundary and busing decisions were being made in the late 1990s and early 2000s, agreed. Stariha said the decisions were made with the intention of desegregating schools. She would rather see Hatch’s vice principal eliminated than have school choice for students and parents disappear.
To McPhetridge, that data and logic is out-of-date. He says declining enrollment has changed the landscape of Cabrillo schools and has freed up space for more students at Hatch. He hopes to revisit school boundaries entirely, in light of these demographic changes. He said a population shift would allow the district to focus on the individualized needs of each school and save money in the long run by moving resources to Hatch and “right-sizing” Farallone View and El Granada.
“We know that our schools are getting smaller,” McPhetridge said. “We would bring resources to bear to follow students and their needs.”
He also said the district has plans to work with SamTrans on adjusted routes and fares so students can still ride a bus to school. Sonoqui said she would consider riding SamTrans with her son, but said that few parents would send early elementary kids on a public bus alone.
For city of Half Moon Bay Latino Advisory Council member Joaquin Jimenez, the real issue with the conversation around potential busing changes is that he thinks Moonridge students won’t be welcome at Hatch. Jimenez said he is disheartened by the initial negative reactions he has heard from Hatch parents and teachers and said the council will release a letter this week addressing the issue.
“(The letter) is about how we as a Latino community ... feel about our kids being denied an education at Hatch. Not by the administration, but by teachers,” Jimenez said. “We are very, very hurt to hear this from teachers and from parents.”
Sonoqui said that no matter what happens, she will make sure her son gets to school safely and on time.
“I’m not going to make him miss school just because there’s no bus,” Sonoqui said. “I can wake up earlier. Our parents sacrificed for us; we can sacrifice for our kids.”
This version corrects Marina Stariha's relationship with local schools.