Students being dropped off at Southside School. Photo by Juliana Luna.
Students being dropped off at Southside School. Photo by Juliana Luna.

This article was written by BenitoLink intern Juliana Luna

BenitoLink reported in early August on the difficulty of finding school transportation for children at Hollister Migrant Housing Center. A few days later, John Schilling, superintendent/principal of Southside Elementary School District, sent a commentary announcing a temporary transportation solution.

“Hollister High School has reallocated resources in the eleventh hour to provide support to Southside students,” he wrote.

Financially supported by the migrant regional office, Southside is paying for a van and a driver but the cost is not known at this time.

Schilling said San Benito High School District and Southside do not have an agreement on how long the service will last. 

“We’re hoping that they can continue to support our students through the end of the season, through November, and into the spring semester,” he said.

Hollister High School Manager of Maintenance, Operations and Transportation Kristy Bettencourt said, “We will do the route as long as needed and that we can send the driver.”

Migrant Center students used to take the County Express bus to Southside but County Express ended that route due to a driver shortage.

Southside Elementary continues to use migrant education funds from the Santa Clara County Office of Education to pay for the van provided by the high school. 

The temporary solution came from the high school and migrant regional office staff, Schilling wrote. He told BenitoLink that they “took a hands-on approach” to support migrant education in the Southside and the families at the migrant center.

“This was the last effort to get some sort of support for our students to get to school,” he said.

He said he first talked to Bettencourt, and shortly after with Superintendent of San Benito High School District Shawn Tennenbaum to discuss the opportunity to collaborate to find a solution.

Schilling describes the response he received as “quick, a day or two before school started.”

The van provided by the high school makes three round trips to each morning, and afternoon to transport between 19 and 27 students to and from school.

Roughly 230 students attend Southside Elementary; however, the total amount varies throughout the year. Transitional families who reside at the camp leave during Thanksgiving and return around April.

Walking or biking is not an option for students because Southside Road, from the Migrant Center to school, is unsafe for pedestrians and especially for students.

Southside Road consists of curved roads and narrow lanes. Photo by Juliana Luna.
Southside Road consists of curved roads and narrow lanes. Photo by Juliana Luna.

“The road is very treacherous,” said Schilling. “There’s no shoulder, no sidewalk. Driving on the road you have to pay particular attention because people travel too fast and the curves. Plus there are no guard rails on parts of the road.” 

Schilling told BenitoLink that limited funding is among the challenges rural schools face, which is why it does not offer transportation services for its students.

“Typically, rural schools don’t have similar community support as schools in cities. A lot of the time they rely on parents and staff members to have programs on campus,” he said. 

He added that Southside is unique compared to other rural schools, due to its size. It’s larger than Jefferson Elementary, Panoche Elementary, and Cienega Elementary schools.

Going forward, Schilling only sees two options to provide transportation services: County Express and Hollister High School. 


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