Manatee charter schools, district may be on road to bus solution

jajones1@bradenton.comMay 14, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Providing contracted bus service to five charter schools is a $520,944 annual money loser for the Manatee County School District.

The Manatee County school board and the charter school officials now understand that.

But the lurching way the item was added to the school board agenda, removed for review, and then added again was maybe not the most graceful way of doing business.

"Talk about a moving target," school board member Bob Gause said.

School board member Karen Carpenter was even more colorful.

"I have whiplash from this bus ride," Carpenter said. "Too much round and round."

School board Chairwoman Julie Aranibar said she thought it important for the charter school bus proposal to be re-added to the agenda so school board members had the information.

Deputy Superintendent Don Hall said all five charter schools signed a memorandum of understanding with the district to work another

two weeks to develop a solution to the problem.

Among the proposals:

• Charging charter schools full cost with no subsidy.

• Allowing charter schools to use their own independent contractor for bus service.

• Continue the status quo through the 2014-15 school year.

The state pays the district $366 per student for bus transportation. The state also pays the same amount for each bused charter school student. The state stipend covers only about half the cost of transporting students with the remainder coming from the general fund.

District staff said charter school officials indicated they would be willing to pay the actual cost of bus transportation.

"We have to be fair about it and we have to be compensated for our costs," Gause said.

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.

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

Charter schools already providing their own transportation include Imagine North Charter School, Imagine Lakewood Ranch, Team Success and Oasis. Visible Men Academy contracts for bus service with a private company.

In other business:

• Sheryl Riker, district transportation director, addressed the aging school bus fleet and recommended 14 new buses be purchased in the 2014-15 school year. At an estimated price of $115,000 per bus, the price tag would be $1.65 million.

• Skip Wilhoit, coordinator of Safe Schools, Dropout Prevention, and Student Intervention, reported on the overhaul of the Student Code of Conduct. Proposed changes include a process for dealing with violent threats, bringing the expulsion process back to the district and adding a parental rights section.

James A. Jones Jr., Herald staff writer, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter: @jajones1.

Bradenton Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service