Parents: if you rely on the bus to get your child to school, this might affect you. Big changes could be coming down the road in Hillsborough County. The district is looking to cut routes for about 7,000 kids and saving money is driving the decision.
“They watch me walk to the bus stop,” says 6th grader Janette Rincone.
Rincone depends on the bus to get her to and from Wilson Middle, because her parents have to leave for work early.
“That means they'll take away time from my dad and my mom's work,” says Rincone.
She lives less than two miles from school, but would have to cross a busy Kennedy Boulevard.
“That is very far, and I would actually want my parents to take me then, because I don't want to get kidnapped."
Rincone’s one of nearly 7,000 middle and high school students who are considered "courtesy riders". The state doesn't reimburse the district for the expense, because it believes parents are responsible for transportation within two miles.
The school board is now considering cutting the routes to save $8-10 million per year.
“We went back and looked at all of the routes, but there's really not a clear definition why all of these routes were put on this courtesy bus transportation program. We want to make sure our primary focus, of course, is student success in learning, and this money we can see go right back into the classroom,” says Hillsborough County School District Spokeswoman Tanya Arja.
Some parents are on board. “I think it's absolutely insane it hasn't already been done. That is a tremendous amount of money to be saved,” says Wilson Middle parent Wendy Tompkins.
If the board approves the plan on Tuesday, impacted parents will then be notified.
LEARN MORE: Board's review of the courtesy bussing agenda
Some 800 students will keep their rides because of roadside hazards.
A parent can protest the change if there's a safety concern: the speed limit, traffic count, or a narrow walking path. The district will review the concern and ask the county to fix the problem. “We will only do the courtesy transportation until the hazardous walking conditions are fixed or repaired,” says Arja.
Rincone hopes the district won't put the brakes on her ride. “Keep your bus routes,” Rincone says.
The changes would be for middle and high school courtesy riders for the 2017-2018 school year.
The district will then look at elementary routes.
The board will meet and decide on the plan on Tuesday, December 6th at 3:00 p.m., 901 East Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa.
More coverage of school transportation: