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Full-day early childhood programs, more English Language Learners and two new sites where special-education students learn job skills are fueling proposed increases to the Lincoln Public Schools transportation budget in the coming year.

The transportation plan would add $672,370 to the nearly $12 million transportation budget, which is used to get nearly 4,000 students to and from school.

The transportation plan, which the board will vote on June 26, deals only with bus route changes, because it involves some summer routes that need to be approved before the full LPS budget is finalized.

Other new transportation costs in the general fund budget include an increase of $200,000 to First Student, the company LPS contracts with for additional bus drivers because of an ongoing struggle to hire enough drivers.

The shortage is better than it was — the district is currently short six drivers, but it fluctuates.

The biggest single increase in the route changes is $126,590 to take special-education students to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Harper dormitory, an additional spot where the district’s Vocational Opportunity In Community Experience students will work.

It also adds $27,760 to take VOICE students to a new church-based program. VOICE students are 18- to 21-year-olds who learn job skills at what will be 12 locations next year.

The plan adds $67,530 to pay for routes LPS ran last year to two new full-day early childhood programs at Brownell and Holmes elementary schools. Traditionally, the district has run half-day preschool programs because of the long waiting list, but recently got a grant to start one full-day program and has since added more.

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District officials also will add routes to accommodate increases in the number of children attending the early childhood program at Campbell Elementary; and to send kids from the programs at Norwood Park and Kooser elementary schools to the early childhood Educare program at Belmont. The programs at Kooser and Norwood Park are full.

An increase in the number of English Language Learners has necessitated additional routes to ELL programs at Maxey Elementary and Culler and Goodrich middle schools, said director Ryan Robley.

LPS buses special-education students, students who live more than four miles from the school in their attendance area, those who have been moved to different schools to ease overcrowding or other circumstances approved by the board.

The district now offers bus service to the focus programs, in addition to The Career Academy, and will add $95,830 to take middle-school students who will begin taking courses at The Career Academy next year.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSreist.

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Education reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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