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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Hernando board split on new bell schedule

BROOKSVILLE – One Hernando School Board member now has the power to decide if bell times will change next year.

The board deadlocked with a 2-2 vote Tuesday night on a proposal to shift start times at every level throughout the district. Board member John Sweeney was absent, and Superintendent Bryan Blavatt said he would bring back the item at the board’s June 15 regular meeting.

The plan arranges schools by geographic location and would cut about 15 buses for an estimated savings of $750,000.

Chairman Pat Fagan said he has been contacted by parents concerned about elementary students waiting at bus stops earlier on dark winter mornings and less time in the afternoon for older students to participate in after-school activities.

Board member Dianne Bonfield joined Fagan in opposition to the proposal.

“We spend a lot of money in our school system, but I can’t think of a better way to spend it than on the safety of our children,” Bonfield said.

But Blavatt noted that the plan would not make drastic changes to bus pickup times. He said he did not have major concerns about safety, and was clearly frustrated when it became clear the measure would not pass.

“Is it gonna be inconvenient? Yes,” Blavatt said of the proposed schedule just before the vote. “But ladies and gentlemen, this is a precursor to a lot more inconvenience that’s coming down the road. In other districts surrounding us there have been drastic cuts in staff. I’m trying my best as superintendent to provide you with alternatives to taking teachers from classrooms. I gotta have your help. If we’re not going to do this, I’m at a loss.”

Board members Sandra Nicholson and James Yant vote for the measure.

"If we don’t make any changes, what then?" Yant said. "We have to do something."

Sweeney, who was traveling out of state, could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday night. He said earlier this month that the plan warranted a thorough look due to the substantial savings but did not say which way he was leaning.

-- Tony Marrero, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 10:07am]


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