Approximately 3,800 bus-riding students will have to find their own way to school next year if the Davis Board of Education accepts a committee's recommendations on transportation.

The district currently is tapping textbook funds to provide rides for youngsters who don't meet state busing criteria. Unless changes are made, transporting these students will cost the district more than $600,000 next year, district officials say.Committee members admit this is asking a lot from many parents, but they think it's the right thing to do.

"We know this will have a big impact, but it's only fair to the other students," said JoAnne Nielsen, committee co-chair. "We're taking weighted pupil unit money to bus those ineligible riders."

Lamont Nelson, district transportation director, agrees. "This is a big deal and it weighed heavily on the committee," he said. "It's going to take some arranging for car pools and some students will have to start walking."

The committee also recommends changing school starting and ending times to get maximum use out of the 172 buses the district owns and the eight it leases.

Other recommendations include such things as reviewing what constitutes hazardous routes and implementing a five-year plan to replace 15 buses per year. New buses cost about $70,000 each.

The committee suggests accommodating Davis County's exploding growth by upgrading the existing bus fleet with newer vehicles, but not increasing the total number of buses. Nor would any new drivers be added to the current 200.

Nelson said the system would continue to make use of the resources it has. "What we'll have is basically an effective system, a cost-effective, viable system that probably would be the best in the state."

As far as bus riding eligibility, Utah gives money to school districts to transport elementary students who live 1.5 miles from school or secondary students who are 2 miles away.

The state reimbursed Davis district last year for students who didn't meet these standards but won't do it next year, Nelson said.

"The state paid us this year because they were not in a position to chop that funding, but next year we've been assured we will not get it," Nelson said.

No other district in Utah buses as many non-qualifying students as the Davis district, according to state records. Ogden is next, transporting 237 youngsters who don't meet state standards.

"Most school districts transport zero," Nelson said.

The school board will discuss the recommendations May 10 and plans to meet with the committee May 17. Public information meetings will be held in the future.