HomeMaintenanceCalifornia Dreamin’: A Look Inside Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District

California Dreamin’: A Look Inside Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District

Santa Monica is world renowned for its beaches and the celebrities who frequent them. The city has long served as home to some of the most powerful players in Hollywood and is a world-class tourist destination. Yet, like other towns and counties across the U.S., it has its own challenges when it comes to transporting students to and from school.

While Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District serves a total area of about 36 square miles, there are certainly much larger districts in the nation. One of them is right in Santa Monica’s own backyard. Los Angeles Unified and its western-most service area borders Santa Monica on three sides, and it boasts a fleet that outnumbers Santa Monica-Malibu by 1,500 to 25. But like LAUSD’s buses, Santa Monica school buses navigate the snarl of rush-hour, intercity traffic as well as the remote, rural expanse. And, Santa Monica’s transportation budget for the 2013-2014 school year is a measly $2 million compared to LAUSD’s nearly $70 million.

Twenty-three miles to the northwest is the affluent beach community of Malibu, where even more stars live … along with students who need transportation. Six of those 23 miles are what Director of Transportation Services Neal Abramson refers to as “wilderness.” If you ever drive the stretch of Pacific Coast Highway between these two enclaves, you’ll see why.

After leaving behind the “city” of Santa Monica and its famous Pacific Park pier, head north past Palisades Park, which was immortalized by singer Freddy Cannon. Next, you’ll come across Will Rogers State Beach and Topanga Beach at the foot of a canyon by the same name that winds through the Santa Monica Mountains to the San Fernando Valley. Cross Temescal Canyon and the famous Surfrider break at Malibu Lagoon, made famous in “Gidget,” “Beach Blanket Bingo” and “The Beach Boys.” Keep going all the way to the Ventura County Line.

That’s the route, or part of it anyway, that the district’s seven regular route buses traverse each school day. The other 18 buses in the fleet operate special needs routes in the city of Santa Monica as well as field and athletic trips all across Los Angeles County — sometimes even farther.

Santa Monica-Malibu sells about $48,000 worth of transit passes on the Big Blue Bus to the approximately 500 other students who need home-to-school transportation. L.A. Metro bus passes are also sold to students who need transportation from Malibu to Santa Monica.

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