On second thought, Manatee school board will consider ending bus service for charters

Posted by MARC R. MASFERRER on May 13, 2014 

By JAMES A. JONES JR., jajones1@bradenton.com

BRADENTON – Late last week, a proposal to halt contracted bus service to charter schools as a cost-cutting measure was removed from the Manatee School Board agenda for Tuesday's meeting, pending further review.

At the request of School Board Chair Julie Aranibar on Sunday, the item has been restored to the agenda.

The school district staff has proposed three options:

-- Allow charter schools to use district transportation with no subsidized costs.

-- Require charter schools to contract with independent contractors for the 2014-2015 school year.

-- Continue to offer bus service to charter schools for 2014-2015 with analysis to be conducted over the next year for future service options.

The district estimates that it loses $520,944.55 a year providing bus service to charter schools.

On Friday, district transportation director Sheryl Riker informed the school board that no change for service to charter schools would occur for the 2014-2015 school year. Discussions would continue between the Transportation Department and charter schools.

Also on Friday, the district informed charter schools that the agenda item for vote had been removed from the agenda and the district would continue transportation for one additional year. Manatee School for the Arts and State College of Florida Collegiate charter schools learned they would incur additional costs for bus monitor supervision at district middle school sites.

School board members are set to take up the recommendation at their regular board meeting, which begins at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday.

The district now provides bus service for Palmetto Charter, Just for Girls Academy, Manatee School for the Arts and State College of Florida Collegiate charter schools.

Rowlett Charter has requested transportation services beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

The proposal to cutoff contracted bus service was greeted by dismay at charter schools last week.

Students at Manatee School for the Arts are circulating a petition, and had collecting more than 100 signatures.

"For schools who are treading water, it would be a death sentence. My personal school alone would lose over 75 percent of its students. That would mean a massive loss of revenue and likely cancellation," the petition reads.

Charter schools that provide their own transportation include Imagine North Charter School, Imagine Lakewood Ranch, Team Success and Oasis. Visible Men Academy contracts with a private company.

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