Valley Bus Discontinued, Students Left Without Transportation


Alana L.

The bus that transports students to and from the Valley. Next year, the bus will no longer be operating as a result of a discontinuation.

In 2014, Westridge started a bus route to and from the San Fernando Valley. Now, eight years later, that route is being discontinued due to the lack of financial sustainability. 

Originally, Westridge’s admissions office identified the Valley area as an opportunity to expand recruitment. Operating a bus route was considered feasible given that multiple families were already commuting from Glendale. Because of that optimistic view, “we essentially took a risk and started a bus,” said Kendis Heffley, Chief Financial and Operations Officer.

It was a gamble Westridge hoped would pay off. “Buses are hideously expensive to hire for the whole year. So it’s not something the school could really do for a small number of girls, but we thought that might be a way to help families and bring students in.”

In the past eight years, the number of passengers has not increased but hovered around the same number. “In the first four-and-a-half years before the pandemic hit, it didn’t grow at all. We started out with 11 kids in a 32-passenger bus, 11 students, and it kind of hovered around 11/12. Those weren’t even full-time riders, they might be bus passers or whatnot. So the finances just didn’t work out,” said Heffley

“We are very supportive of buses. They’re just really, really expensive.”

— Kendis Heffley

In fact, Heffley estimated that they were losing tens of thousands of dollars,‘running deficits in the $60-70,000 range.” Students who take the bus pay an extra $2,500 fee.  Financial aid is available. Despite the desire to support commuting students, ultimately, the decision came down to numbers. “We couldn’t pay it. We couldn’t charge enough,” said Heffley. 

Heffley and her team emailed all impacted families back in early December. The email mentioned the lack of ridership creating a net loss and how the route was no longer a sustainable practice. The letter went on to cite the stark rise in bus rates as a key contributor to the discontinuation. The email read, “First Student, [the bus provider], raised their prices 52% making their service unaffordable in the long term. As a result, we have made the decision to discontinue this service at the end of the current school year, 2021–22.” The message continued to offer rideshare sources and encourage carpooling.

“[We tried to] find out if they had alternate ways of transportation and so on. We communicated with everybody. It was clear that with some families, they relied on the bus, that it would be very difficult. It’s just been a situation where it’s financially not feasible,” said Heffley. 

The inside of the Valley bus. Every day, it transports around 12 students. (Alana L.)

Rosemary B. ’25 has been taking the Valley bus all four years of her time at Westridge, and next year she will no longer be a Westridge student as a result of the bus service cancellation. “I am being forced to leave Westridge. I think Westridge’s handling it really poorly, there’s been no communication since one email saying that they were getting rid of my bus. It’s really upsetting and frustrating because it’s basically forcing me to leave Westridge…it feels like Westridge doesn’t care about their students.”

Parents also feel the impact.  One parent who asked to remain anonymous said, “I’m curious to know how many non-bus families know about this issue. What can we as a community do to keep the bus for these girls? At least for one to two years to give time for the older girls to drive or graduate and the younger girls to transfer out.”

Nicole DeLeon, a mother of a 9th grader, said, “No matter what carpooling options or child-focused rideshare options, nothing offers safe, secure transportation for our children that a bus service provides. A school as dynamic as the Westridge School must always think about the future. There are fewer possibilities of ever finding new families west of the school without offering this bus service. The service shows that Westridge is extending its reach to areas further afield and extending its arms to the community in a significant, appreciated way.”

Additionally, Heather Bilson, another mother of a 9th grader, said, “The way this was handled feels very incongruent with the values that Westridge espouses. There was no communication or dialogue about how this would affect the individual families. It really felt like a bottom-line numbers decision with no regard for the impact on the individuals. I know Westridge [prides itself] on creating community, but we certainly did not feel like a valued member of the community when this decision hit at the point”

Alana L. ’25 is a new student at Westridge and also heavily relies on the bus to get to school. When she and her younger sister were applying to Westridge, they were not aware that their transportation to school was in jeopardy of cancellation. Alana said, “It’s just hard because we need the bus to get to school, and when we have sports after school, like me and my sister, we have sports at different times so the bus helps us get to practice. There’s more traffic after school, and it’s not like my mom wants to drive to school every day to pick us up when we don’t live in Pasadena. 

Despite the families’ disappointment over the Valley bus route, Westridge remains committed to supporting buses and wants to explore different options for student transportation such as carpooling and rideshare opportunities. “We are very supportive of buses. They’re just really, really expensive.”