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Hernando offers busing flexibility for those living too close to school

BROOKSVILLE — Amy Plunkett lives 1.99 miles from Deltona Elementary School, where her 7-year-old will be a second-grader this year.

By the slightest of margins, it means her son is too close to school to ride a bus.

Or so she thought.

A change this school year will allow students who live within the 2-mile no-busing radius — or in other places where students can't get a bus to school — to use the closest existing stop, as long as there is room on the bus.

Plunkett signed right up and hopes to be approved.

"I was thrilled that (the district) at least give the opportunity," she said. "Before they implemented this, if you lived within the 2 miles, you were (out of luck). At least parents have a chance to get their children on a bus."

The change would keep her from having to change her work hours or make special arrangements for day care before and after school.

So far, the district has only gotten about 50 applications for the program, said district transportation director Douglas Compton.

"(We thought) this would be a great way to serve customers who are under 2 miles or not in zone," Compton said, noting that there is no additional cost to the district. "We're already running the bus."

The school district had stopped offering bus service inside the 2-mile radius last year to save money.

The new program is fairly straightforward.

Parents or guardians submit an application and, if there is room on the bus, students may use the closest existing stop.

Applications will be approved on Sept. 15 at the earliest.

The district says no new stops will be created. Also, if there are more requests for space than bus seats, preference will be given to students based first on the lowest grade level, then by youngest age and finally by the farthest distance from school.

The "space availability" policy might be especially helpful for parents whose children received busing last year but, for various reasons, will not this year.

At least 100 students who were bused to school last year won't have the service when school starts Monday after a review determined that they actually live within the 2-mile no-transportation zone.

A total of four areas mistakenly received busing last year, Compton said, noting that parents were notified of the mistake earlier this summer. The students were removed from busing lists, which he said was the fair thing to do.

The changes eliminate busing for Floyd K-8 students living in Pristine Place and Hibiscus Springs in Spring Hill, for Moton Elementary students living in Hillside Estates in Brooksville, and for Brooksville Elementary students living in Da-Mac Estates on the north side of Brooksville.

With the new year about to begin, few things have changed as much as the district's busing plan.

Two weeks ago, the district saved an estimated $888,000 by streamlining bus routes. The transportation department eliminated 24 routes, adding roughly 10 students to each remaining route.

There have been a number of behind-the-scenes changes, too.

For the first time, the district has gone to a computerized system to determine bus routes instead of relying on past routes. And the 2-mile boundaries were re-evaluated.

Superintendent Bryan Blavatt credited Compton, who joined the district in May, for the changes.

"He's done a great job," Blavatt said.

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

>>fast facts

All about busing

Buses will make a dry run today of their morning and afternoon routes. Buses will not be taking on students, but parents may come to the stops at the appropriate times. The district also sent out more than 9,000 postcards to families with each student's bus assignment, according to the district. Parents should receive them by Saturday. Don't know where your child's bus stop is? Go to the Hernando school district's website — hernandoschools.org — and click on "bus stop locator."

Hernando offers busing flexibility for those living too close to school 08/16/12 [Last modified: Thursday, August 16, 2012 7:49pm]

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