A Hernando School Board majority must look at children's safety as happenstance. Tuesday night, board members Cynthia Moore, John Sweeney and Dianne Bonfield killed a new transportation plan to add bus service for 1,300 elementary school children living more than a mile from their school, saying the proposal was unfair for excluding students at K-8 schools.
These claims of inequity would carry more weight if the district was exhausting additional resources on a privileged audience. It's not. The rejected plan did not add to the School District budget and would have been achieved by shifting school start times in the fall, allowing buses to make additional runs each day. It's not perfect, but it is a reasonable compromise to a more comprehensive, but exorbitant plan the board already had dismissed.
Under state law, districts are reimbursed only for the cost of transporting children living more than 2 miles from their schools. Prior to budget cuts in 2011, the district also provided courtesy service to any child's family that requested it. But offering bus service is routinely revisited because of the lack of sidewalks around the county and the memory of a 2008 tragedy in which a middle school student was struck and killed by a vehicle as she walked to school.
The majority's support for the status quo is hard to figure after the board spent four months and two workshops debating how to add busing for children now walking or being transported by parents.
The decision is counterproductive to the stated goal of trying to restore courtesy bus service. Such a plan is cost prohibitive at the moment because it would entail buying additional buses at a cost of $105,000 each and absorbing per-route expenses of $40,000 for labor and fuel.
The staff devised a partial, economics-driven remedy that would have been a good start. Instead, a Hernando School Board majority indicated it was not worth the inconvenience of earlier school times if it didn't benefit everybody. It is short-sighted and irresponsible. Keeping 1,300 young children safer on their way to and from school each day should never be construed as an inconvenience.