Monday, April 23, 2018
Education

Hernando school board again punts on busing issue

BROOKSVILLE — Bring back more options — again.

That's the message Hernando County School Board members gave the district staff on Tuesday at a special meeting devoted to the issue of busing in the district's 2-mile nontransportation zone.

For three years, the district hasn't offered busing for those living within two miles of school — a cost-saving measure that has drawn the ire of many parents and some in the community.

After a short presentation, board members instructed transportation director Doug Compton to throw out the three proposed options in front of them and to come back with new ones. By a 4-1 vote, they voted to table their discussion until so they could view the new information.

So far, the board has considered at three different meetings a total of 11 options — two in December, six in February and three on Tuesday.

Once again, the biggest issue is money.

At Tuesday's special meeting, district officials painted a picture of a cash-strapped district, with schools that are badly in need of maintenance and huge looming capital costs.

"The money (for more bus routes) has to come from somewhere," said superintendent Lori Romano, noting that the vast majority of the budget goes toward salaries. "We already know that we're resource poor."

The three options that went before the board on Tuesday had an annual cost ranging from $500,000 to $1.35 million. The one-time capital costs — the price of buying new buses — ranged from $1 million to $2.5 million.

Each plan would have brought back busing next school year for all students at elementary and K-8 schools living more than a half mile from their school, and all middle school and high school students living more than a mile away.

Board member Dianne Bonfield, who has been a supporter of restoring so-called courtesy busing to students living within two miles of school, was very concerned about the district's finances.

"I'm looking at the figures and the money is not there," she said. "I want to see this restored, but I can't buy on credit and that's basically what we're doing."

She said the district's financial position was made even shakier by the Hernando County Commission's initial rejection last month of new educational impact fees.

The School Board will likely consider four proposals at the Tuesday workshop and meeting, all of which are variations on a previous cost-neutral proposal. Compton did not know how much the new options would cost.

While the busing issue has been a frequent topic at School Board meetings, Hernando principals say they actually haven't heard too many complaints. In a survey of principals, Romano said that most of the complaints come from two schools; the rest haven't heard much.

Romano invited all the principals to Tuesday's meeting to give them a chance to speak up about busing. Only three showed.

Powell Middle School principal Jamie Young said her school was hit hard when the district did away with busing, but that they've been able to work out a lot of the issues.

"I think we've made the change and we're adapting," she said. "I think now just isn't the right time."

D.S. Parrott Middle School principal Brent Gaustad said the schools have cut 20 percent in recent years and are extremely lean. He didn't want to take any more resources out of the classroom.

Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

Comments
Hillsborough: No way we can afford teacher raises this year

Hillsborough: No way we can afford teacher raises this year

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District is in bad financial shape and its reputation for sound management is perhaps undeserved, the district’s own fiscal team testified Monday in a hearing concerning teacher salaries.The district "made finan...
Updated: 5 hours ago

School news for April 27

School Calendar• May 17-20: High school graduations• May 25: Last day of school for studentsBriefs• School Safety Town Hall Meetings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. May 2 at River Ridge Middle/High, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey and 6 to 8 p....
Published: 04/23/18
A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

The young man in a white jail jumpsuit, handcuffed and shackled, looked past the throng of reporters pointing microphones toward his face, barely opening his mouth as he answered questions."I shot through the door," he said, looking at a female repor...
Published: 04/21/18
After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

TAMPA — Confronted in late 2017 with reports of misconduct by substitute teachers hired through a contractor, Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins said he would ask tough questions and demand answers. He had his lawyer, Jeff Gibson, ...
Published: 04/21/18
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Nicole Leary and Taylor Redington stood outside St. Petersburg High School on Friday morning with parents and protesters who had gathered with bullhorns and signs. In a few minutes they would lead about 70 students on a walk to City Hall, joining oth...
Published: 04/20/18
Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE — A gunman who carried a shotgun in a guitar case opened fire Friday in a Florida high school, wounding one student before he was arrested on a day planned for a national classroom walkout to protest gun violence, authorities said. It...
Published: 04/20/18
Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins is preparing to reorganize his cabinet — for the third time since 2015 — in an effort to coordinate programs at the district’s highest-needs schools.In an interview this week, Eakins descr...
Published: 04/20/18
Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

High school students from both sides of Tampa Bay will commemorate the anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings on Friday, although in very different ways. In St. Petersburg, students from several schools will gather at noon at City Hall f...
Published: 04/20/18
Hooper: A tribute to my Godby High School instructors

Hooper: A tribute to my Godby High School instructors

Every time I see an algebraic formula, Mrs. Watson, Mrs. Landreth and Mrs. McBee flash through my mind.If you say history, I say Mr. Groot and Mrs. Melton. If you say civics, I say Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Hunt.I type using the "home keys" because Mrs....
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teachers’ aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer...
Published: 04/19/18