ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With only two weeks until school starts in Pinellas County, some parents are scrambling to figure out how their kids will actually get to and from school after receiving what they say are unrealistic school bus assignments.
Several families reached out saying their children’s bus stops are four miles from their homes this year, and they say that isn’t a walkable distance, especially for an 11-year old.
Katie Hines and her son, Evan, are making the most of the last days of summer break, but just this week, they received the unexpected news.
“My son, Evan, was assigned a bus stop over four miles from our house, and the school is just over five miles from our house, so I don’t know in whose logic it would make sense to drive your kid 80 percent of the way to school and not just go the whole way,” she said.
Evan will attend John Hopkins Middle School as an incoming sixth-grader. It’s a magnet school, and Hines said she vaguely remembers the school district telling parents about possible changes to buses last year.
“They were going to move to true arterial bussing, that they were going to cut down on the number of stops, but I just don’t think families anticipated this," she said.
Hines said many families, like hers, aren’t able to drive their kids to school, so now, they’re considering another option.
“We’re fortunate enough that the public city bus is right here, two blocks from us, I can walk there even easier than my old bus and it’s very convenient,” she said.
The public bus is less than a five-minute walk for Evan, and free with his student ID. Hines said she can also track it, live, but says it shouldn’t come to this.
“If their goal was to make buses run on time, certainly eliminating the number of stops and picking up fewer kids is putting you in a better situation to have the buses show up on time, but are you actually serving the kids and the community by providing a service of getting them to school,” she said.
The Pinellas County School District released the following statement:
"Pinellas County Schools is committed to making transportation more efficient during the 2023-24 school year. The district heard the concerns from families and developed a multi-faceted plan to increase on-time bus arrival in the morning and afternoon for students and families. The focus areas, shared publicly beginning in February 2023, included a family ridership campaign, driver pay recruitment and retention, routing efficiencies and combinations, and changes to arterial stops.
Pinellas County Schools values school choice and has provided transportation for magnet programs. The changes to arterial stops for middle and high school students attending magnet programs preserve the commitment to families while also increasing efficiency.While some students utilizing arterial stops may have to travel further than in previous years, all arterial stops align with safety guidelines set by law and School Board Policy 8600 - Transportation.
Pinellas County Schools is positioned to provide on-time transportation for the over 20,000 students that utilize school buses each day.
More information about the district’s strategy to improve transportation efficiency can be found on the transportation website: Transportation / Transportation FAQs (pcsb.org)."