Community meetings will help Hillsborough families explore transportation options
A series of gatherings has been scheduled to help parents cope with a reduction of busing to Hillsborough County public schools.
Beginning March 1 at Wharton High School, the meetings are intended to educate families about carpools, safe bicycling routes and other ways to get to school.
But they are not town hall meetings where parents can complain about the loss of busing within two miles of the schools.
At Tuesday's School Board meeting, Lisa Silva, a principal planner for the Metropolitan Planning Organization outlined the work of an MPO School Transportation Working Group.
Launched in early 2016, the group pulls from numerous governmental agencies and is undertaking traffic safety studies at selected schools.
Melissa Snively, the one School Board member who voted against the busing cutbacks in December, called the project "a day late and a dollar short."
Snively, whose district in east Hillsborough was hit especially hard by the cuts, says school officials should have studied the impact of the cuts more thoroughly before carrying them out.
Of the 7,000 middle and high school students who could lose their bus rides this fall, nearly 1,000 live in FishHawk Ranch, one of Snively's communities.
The cuts in so-called "courtesy busing" come at the recommendation of the Gibson Consulting Group, which the district hired to help reduce spending. The state, through its school transportation program, does not fund busing within two miles of a school unless the district can demonstrate a walking hazard, under strict state guidelines.
Districts pay for that service with money that comes out of their general budget. In Hillsborough, the cost has been estimated as high as $10 million a year.
The cuts take effect in August. Another round for elementary schools is expected in August of 2018.
Meeting dates and locations
These meetings are planned to offer information on transportation to school. All meetings are from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.:
March 1 Wharton High School
March 8 Randall Middle School
March 22 Pierce Middle School
March 29 Burnett Middle School
April 5 Wilson Elementary School
April 12 Stewart Middle School
April 19 Eisenhower Middle School
April 26 Chamberlain High School