3,000 students eligible in schools’ revamped free busing plan

Parents with students in certain school choice programs will soon get relief from the daily grind of driving their kids to school.

Brevard Public Schools is introducing a revamped regional busing plan for students who are enrolled in one of the district’s 54 Educational Program Options, including choice and magnet schools, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge programs, academies and career and technology education.

The service will be free.

Students currently have the option to apply to any program in the district regardless of where they live, but they must provide their own transportation.

“Equitable access to this program is important to the district,” Stephanie Archer, assistant superintendent of Equity, Innovation and Choice, said. “Regional busing provides access to programs that perhaps were unavailable to students where transportation was a barrier. Now, the opportunities exist for all students.”

Opponents of school choice have said lack of transportation can limit student opportunities to take advantage of specialty and advanced offerings at schools across the county.

Archer estimated that some 3,000 students will be eligible for the regional busing program, which will have centralized drop-off and pick-up points. Parents will still have to get their students to those points.

Still, Archer said, that will make it easier for parents, some of whom drive their children to school at the opposite end of the county from where they live.

“They will be responsible for getting to either a regional bus stop or a hub bus stop, as opposed to driving them to the school itself,” Archer said.

Archer said details such as when and how parents will sign up for the service, and exact routes and stops, hasn’t been finalized yet. She said parents should expect to receive that information either via the BPS website or messaging through the parent dashboard they used to register their children for choice programs.

“We will communicate with them in terms of how to register their students, what time their students will be picked up,” Archer said. “All of that will be shared between now and June.”

Draft plans posted online by BPS show more than two dozen proposed regional bus stops throughout the county. Three are beachside: Cocoa Beach Junior/Senior High school, the Satellite Teen Center in Satellite Beach, and the Hoover Athletic Complex in Indialantic.

Stops and routes will vary between high school and middle and elementary programs, and are divided into three regions – north, central and south.

A similar busing system was discontinued in 2013 due to budget cuts.

Archer said the revamped version is being funded in conjunction with an overall $3.7 million plan to buy new buses for the district. A new school bus costs $112,000, and the total cost for a single bus to operate per school year is about $52,000.

The district is also offering incentives to attract new bus drivers for the added regional routes. Those incentives include free commercial driver’s license training, which normally costs an individual $3,000 to $5,000 to obtain on their own.

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