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Board: Hour-long bus rides to end for 10 students

MANATEE -- Ten students will no longer have to endure an hour-long bus ride to be educated each day due to a unanimous decision made by school board members Monday night.

The Manatee County school board approved a plan that permits the students to attend their neighborhood school. For years, the 10 elementary-age students were part of a group of as many as 145 others who were bused from “pockets” near Oneco and Daughtrey elementaries to Tara, Braden River and McNeal in order for Manatee County to meet a voluntary desegregation order.

“The parents have limited choices and I want to give them (more) choices. I’m trying to give parents the most choices they can have,” school board Chairman Robert Gause said.

School administrator Danny Lundeen said parents of the 10 students can choose Daughtrey or the school where the students have been bused. The remaining 135 students will continue to be bused away from their neighborhood schools. However, Lundeen said, the district will be more open in the school choice process for those families.

The vote by board members came after scores of parents complained, forcing school district officials to develop committees to make up plans to meet parents’ needs. Plan A would have relaxed the district’s diversity policy. Plan B’s recommendation would eliminate the McNeal “pocket” of 10 students and leave the other busing plans for 135 students intact. Plan C’s recommendation was to split the pocket right down the middle at 11th Street East, which would send 64 kids to Oneco and 80 children which would send 64 kids to Oneco and 80 children to Daughtrey. Superintendent Tim McGonegal recommended Plan B.

Peggy Delegato, education committee chairwoman for the Manatee County Branch of the NAACP, said “considering the detriments, the NAACP … will not endorse any of the plans at this time.”

She asked that any approved plan be revisited and monitored closely. She said there were detriments to all the plans.

“Regardless of our race or ethnicity, we need to do what we can to help all children attain their potential. This can only happen if we interact with each other. The plans being presented tonight could breakdown this interaction.”

She agreed how ever, that Plan B is “the most acceptable because it affects the fewest number of students.”

Board members agreed with Delegato about Plan B.

School board Vice Chairman Harry Kinnan said, “I think if you go to school together, you learn to live together. Regardless of what our vote is, I would hope we move forward.”

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