A group of upset Anna Maria Elementary School parents came to Tuesday’s school board hoping to convince the board to once again allow their eight children to be able to ride Bus 678 home for the rest of the school year.
When they left the meeting, there were no smiles or hugs of joy.
The board did not take up their case despite speeches during public comment from two parents, Jan Schorry and Katie O’Connor.
The school district had pulled the plug on the eight riders, including Schorry’s daughter and O’Connor’s son, because it is seeking to remedy a bus driver shortage by consolidating buses to free up drivers, said Superintendent Diana Greene.
The two buses that serve AME will be consolidated.
Greene said roughly 600 students district-wide have been impacted by the school’s need to try to deal with the bus driver shortage.
The eight families who received letters on Nov. 2 informing them they can no longer ride are all enrolled at AME on school choice but were not enrolled during the appropriate school choice window.
That put them in a category called “hardship.”
The parents said they realized when they enrolled their students that this might happen, but they never thought it would.
“Myself and other parents are here asking you, please, just let these eight kids still ride to Anna Maria,” said Schorry, whose daughter, Maggie, attends AME.
“The idea of running a bus with eight fewer students just because they are hardship doesn’t seem logical nor does making elementary school children spend hours in transit,” O’Connor said.
AME parent Jennifer Sparks said she was too shy to speak Tuesday, but, after the meeting, she said she enrolled her child, Alyssa, 10, in school choice during the correct time so Alyssa is not hardship and did not get a letter kicking her off Bus 678. But Sparks said that Alyssa will still suffer by this decision.
“Because they have consolidated two buses to one Alyssa will ride that one bus 90 minutes during season in order for it to make all the stops it needs,” Sparks said. “I’m very concerned for the kids who did not get a letter and have to ride that one bus.”
The driver of Bus 678 came to the school board meeting to support the families. She declined to comment or give her name, however.
“We cannot keep bus drivers,” Greene said outside the board room. “Our routes require approximately 160 bus drivers. Today we only employ 125.”