Hernando County School Board to consider revised plan for busing students near schools

The Hernando School Board appears ready to approve a plan that would restore busing for some elementary students who live within a 2-mile radius of their schools, and it will be cost-neutral. The plan’s cost of about $600,000 will be canceled out by adjusting start and end times at schools, officials say.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

The Hernando School Board appears ready to approve a plan that would restore busing for some elementary students who live within a 2-mile radius of their schools, and it will be cost-neutral. The plan’s cost of about $600,000 will be canceled out by adjusting start and end times at schools, officials say.

BROOKSVILLE — After much debate and consternation, the Hernando County School Board is set to vote on a cost-neutral busing plan that would restore service for some elementary students living within a 2-mile radius of their schools.

But the plan does come at a price.

Many of the district's schools would see significant changes to their start and end times, with some schools beginning more than 90 minutes later. Some high schools would begin as early as 7:05 a.m.

The busing plan, which appears headed for approval at Tuesday night's School Board meeting, was developed by district transportation director Doug Compton. It would bring back busing for students who live between 1 and 2 miles from the district's nine elementary schools. The plan, however, would not restore bus rides for elementary-age students who attend K-8 schools.

So-called courtesy busing ended three years ago in Hernando as a cost-saving measure. The state does not provide money for districts to bus students who live within 2 miles of their schools, and most districts across Florida do not provide the service.

But few issues have sparked more controversy in recent years than the reduction of bus service.

For the past several months, School Board members have considered numerous proposals to restore busing for students within the 2-mile radius.

Most plans were tossed out for the same reason: money.

With the district strapped for cash and facing huge maintenance and capital costs, School Board members ultimately decided there wasn't enough money available to bring back busing for more students.

Compton says the proposal going before board members next week would cost roughly $600,000. The expense, however, will be canceled out by adjusting start and end times at schools.

The start time at all middle schools would be 9:15 a.m., 95 minutes later for each middle school except for West Hernando Middle, which already has that start time. The schools would get out at 4:15 p.m. or 4:25 p.m.

Board members liked the fact that all the middle schools would end around the same time.

Elementary schools would see the next biggest change, beginning at 8:35 a.m. instead of 9:15 a.m., a difference of 40 minutes.

Most high schools, which already have the earliest start times, would begin even earlier. Central High, Springstead High and Hernando High would all start at 7:05 a.m. — 10 minutes earlier than this year. Weeki Wachee High and Nature Coast Technical High would both start at 7:30 a.m., which is the same as this year.

School Board members have considered 11 busing plans since the issue first was presented in December.

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

Hernando County School Board to consider revised plan for busing students near schools 03/26/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 8:41pm]

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