A ferry ride across the lake to another state is the typical morning commute for children living in Havasu Lake, Calif.
About 45 students who live on the California side of the massive lake attend school in the Lake Havasu Unified School District in Lake Havasu City, even though they live in California.
In 2009, the California community was notified by the Needles Unified School District that the Chemehuevi Elementary School would be closing and would not re-open for the 2009-2010 school year. The school district gave parents the option to attend school in Needles district or Havasu.
San Bernardino County, the Chemehuevi Tribe and Lake Havasu City Unified District then came together to formulate a plan to allow students to attend school in Lake Havasu City. Adolescents in elementary, middle and high school travel across the lake every school day.
“We actually went across the lake to meet with the Chemehuevi Tribe. We are very appreciative of this partnership we have with them,” said. Gail Malay, Superintendent for the Lake Havasu Unified School District.
Students must arrive at the Tecopa ferry boat dock on the California side at 7:15 a.m. The ferry drops them near at the boarding station near the English Village by the London Bridge where they board Lake Havasu Unified School District buses near the Havasu Landing Casino parking lot.
The state of California pays the state of Arizona for each child who attends school here. Families with children who ride the ferry are given a special pass for the entire school year to use the ferry instead of paying a daily ferry fare of $2. Extracurricular activities are still possible for the students because the service operates until midnight and until 2 a.m. on the weekends.
Parent Arlene Escobar said her child had been using the ferry for two years and called the arrangement very convenient.
“Some of the children preferred the 15 minute boat ride across to school in Lake Havasu City, compared to a 45 minute drive (to Needles),” Escobar said.
A chaperone from the Lake Havasu School District travels with the students in the morning and after school each time they ride across the ferry.
The Chemehuevi Tribe said it was very appreciative of the collaborative efforts between the two school districts to make this option available.
“This is our fifth year running the program,” said Dusti Rose Beacon, Education Director for the Chemehuevi Tribes.
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