Focus is on busing at Hillsborough schools town hall meeting

TAMPA — A mother expressed a need for crossing guards, a father wanted to put a stop to late buses.

And a group of parents begged to have bus service continued to a nearby park after school, saying the Hillsborough County School District has left them in a lurch.

They were among about 100 parents, administrators and district staffers who attended a town hall meeting Thursday night at King High School to tell superintendent MaryEllen Elia what was on their minds.

Most of the complaints focused on transportation woes, which weeks ago had Elia apologizing publicly for her office's failure to adequately communicate bus changes with parents.

Parents lined up in front of microphones to throw their dilemmas at Elia, who heard them out and directed them to staff members to tend to their problems personally.

The biggest complaint came from a group of parents whose children attend Maniscalco Elementary School in Northwest Hillsborough County who previously were bused to an after-school care program at nearby Nye Park. They learned the first day of school that the rides to the park had been discontinued.

Budget cuts and an overhaul of the bus system to make it run more efficiently were the reasons for the change, Elia said. She apologized for the lack of notice but said that all buses leaving the school head south. Nye Park is to the north.

The district is providing transportation to Nye Park until October to give parents time to find other options, which includes a bus ride to Northlakes Park 8 miles away.

Parents disagreed with the idea that a trip to Northlakes was a cost-saving measure.

"We have a viable plan," said parent Dawn Byrd. "It reduces gas, oil, and it reduces bus driver's turnaround time in half."

Elia said she was willing to look at it. "In all honesty, I wish that we could give every child the opportunity to take them to every place they wanted to go in this county," Elia said. "If I could, I would."

Another parent, Luis Padilla, said he was unable to reach anyone at the district concerning his 11-year-old autistic son. The buses are late and bus drivers drop him off without a parent waiting.

Elia told Padilla to get with a staffer, who promised him that the district would look into it.

"I like the fact that I was able to talk to somebody," Padilla said. "Hopefully everything will work out."

Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at (813) 269-5312 or nguyen@sptimes.com.

>>FAST FACTS

When and where to voice your concerns

Superintendent MaryEllen Elia plans to hold three more town hall meetings. All begin at 7 p.m. The meetings are as follows:

Sept. 15

Mulrennan Middle School, 4215 Durant Road, Valrico.

Sept. 23

Pierce Middle School, 5511 Hesperides St., Tampa.

Sept. 30

Brandon High School, 1101 Victoria St., Brandon.

Focus is on busing at Hillsborough schools town hall meeting 09/11/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 12, 2008 5:21pm]

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