Bus transportation will be free for all Eden Prairie School District students beginning in the fall of 2022.
District officials announced this change during the March 28 school board meeting.
Currently, students who live within two miles of their school need to pay for busing. The existing rate is $175 per student with a family cap of $295. The new policy will remove all distance requirements and allow any Eden Prairie student to ride for free.
Families have not always had to pay for student transportation. The current policy began in 2012 as a budget-saving measure. Currently, about 600 families pay for busing. These fees bring in approximately $120,000 for the district each year.
Due to the strong support the district has received from the community’s levy, the decision was made to eliminate fees. This is intended to be a permanent policy change and is not dependent on any outside funding. The district’s general fund will absorb the loss in revenue from bus fees.
“We heard from some families in the community that the cost of transportation has become a financial strain on them,” said Jason Mutzenberger, the district’s executive director of business services. “We believe in removing barriers for students, allowing equal access for all, and felt this was one way we could help families.”
The district estimates that its existing buses should have the capacity to handle any increase in riders. The district’s fleet of over 100 buses transports about 7,500 students to and from school each day.
State law requires the district to offer free transportation to students living two or more miles from school.
Surrounding communities have applied their own modifications to this minimum.
Minnetonka currently has a similar structure to the existing Eden Prairie policy of two miles. Students living less than two miles from school are charged a fee to ride the bus.
Eastern Carver County schools have a .25 mile walking zone surrounding their schools. Any students beyond that are serviced by busing for free. Edina uses a distance of .7 miles for elementary students and one mile for secondary students.
Eden Prairie’s new policy will make them one of the only metro districts to offer free transportation to all students.