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San Ysidro High School parents, students and community members speak out against Sweetwater Union High School District’s decision to cut bus routes at a board meeting. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz
San Ysidro High School parents, students and community members speak out against Sweetwater Union High School District’s decision to cut bus routes at a board meeting. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The beginning of a new school year can be a stressful time for families as they scramble to get students all the tools they need to succeed in class. But this year, San Ysidro High School parents and students had a concern bigger than buying school supplies or new clothes: How would students get to school safely?

In response to its budget crisis, the Sweetwater Union High School District announced in July that it would be cutting 20 bus stops designated for San Ysidro High. Students who couldn’t find a ride to school or afford to take public transit were forced to hike up and down a steep hill every day. We followed one student’s six-mile daily roundtrip journey to and from school, which usually begins around 4 a.m. and ends at 7 p.m.

Parents and students organized quickly. For months, they protested the decision by walking the same route students had to take every day to highlight what students faced, filling school board meetings to highlight the impact of the decision and staging a classroom walkout.

The community’s efforts got the attention of several new local news organization. They continued meeting regularly with district officials after school or work to find solutions – a process that for some families involved navigating complexities of the school system in a foreign language.

By November, the hard work was beginning to show. The group persuaded the district to add two more bus stops.

Minerva Downey, one of the organizers of Madres Unidas de San Ysidro Chapter, said that while she’s happy with the progress being made, there’s still more work to be done.

“We’re willing to fight for more.”

This is part of our Voice of the Year package, highlighting the people who played a major role in shaping civic discussion in 2019.

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