Board could put brakes on corridor busing

Tania Martin, Staff Writer

Each morning buses pull into school carrying more than 400 students. But according to Principal Rick Fleming, corridor transportation might not continue for choice schools if voters reject the district’s half-cent sales tax proposal next Tuesday.

“Taking away corridor busing would really hurt the families at our school,” he said. “Many parents are working and/or can’t afford to drive their children to school from places like Palm Bay every day. Many parents will probably pull their children out or not even enroll them in the first place. The school has 14 buses, each usually filling up to 30 kids. This would mean 420 students ride the bus to and from school — almost half of our student body.”

On Oct. 9, school board members voted to keep the sibling preference clause intact for schools of choice, but Dr. Michael Krupp voiced his  concern about the continued expense of corridor busing, saying that eliminating it could produce substantial cost savings to the district.

According to district figures, the average daily mileage per choice school bus is 55.4 miles. The cost per school bus mile is approximately $3.17, making the daily cost for a school bus $175.62, times 180 days is about $31,611.60. Since there are 14 buses at West Shore, the total basic cost for its buses, excluding sporting events and field trips, is $44,2562.40. These costs have district officials wincing.

Donna Lack, vice president of the Parent Teacher Association and mother to two sons at West Shore, said she’s not surprised the elimination of corridor busing is being considered.

“Initially, I’d like to say that this is not the first time that corridor busing has come up on the school board chopping block, and somehow it always manages to be retained a bit longer,” she said. “That being said, if the school board decides to do away with corridor busing, it will adversely affect parents who do not have students that drive, and also working parents who are not home or able to leave work to be at West Shore by 3:30 to pick their students up.”

Lack added that if the program were eliminated, parents at the school would explore alternate plans for transportation.

“Our school is an amazing, family-oriented school,” she said. “I have no doubt that literally hundreds of car pools will pop up to offset the negative impact doing away with corridor busing may have on our school. It seems unlikely that we would lose students already here if corridor busing is taken away, but it might be a deterrent for new families who won’t apply if they don’t have solid transportation plans for their student.”