HCS: Map Time! How Many 2.4-Mile Cab Rides Would $50K Buy?

When WAAY TV.com published the list of schools affected by the new double-up bus scheme that will have some kids on the corner at 6 am, I was curious to see which kids were going to be bearing the brunt of sacrifice for the School Board’s colossal fiscal mismanagement.

Reporter Rebecca Shlien explains:

The original proposal stated that 675 students would be impacted and 16 buses eliminated. Each bus costs the school system $50,000, so the more they can eliminate, the bigger the savings.

Wardynski explains, “Now we think we can save somewhere around $800,000. So that improves our financial situation.”

Here’s how it will work: instead of two buses picking up students, one bus will make two trips. That means half the students will be picked up 30 minutes earlier. The others will take the bus at the normal time.

The plan will eliminate the need for half the buses at 12 of Huntsville schools. And for those students who arrive early, some teachers will be on hand for homework help and tutoring.

The cost of extra staff hours brings a total savings to roughly $600,000. . . .

Wardynski says the 12 schools were chosen based on the length of their bus routes. Shorter routes give bus drivers more time to make multiple trips.

Schools impacted by earlier bus routes:

  • Blossomwood Elementary
  • Chapman Middle
  •  Davis Hills Middle
  •  Ed White Middle
  •  Farley Elementary
  •  Hampton Cove Elementary
  •  Hampton Cove Middle
  •  Jones Valley Elementary
  •  Morris Elementary
  •  Providence Elementary
  •  Providence Middle
  •  University Place Elementary

Well, now, Providence can hardly be said to have short routes, but something else was in store for them, anyway.

Next, I wondered which Districts these schools are in. I discovered District 3 had just the one school, Farley. Dr. Jennie Robinson is the Board member for District 3. This is her third term, meaning she has long played a part in HCS debacles.

Let’s look at the Farley zone. Farley has 283 kids. Here are two Google maps:


B is the location of Farley Elementary, 2900 Green Cove Rd. A is the location at which the distance from school changes from 2.00 miles to a maximum of 2.4 miles. Look at this. It’s like an old-fashioned neighborhood. There aren’t any four-lane highways between anyone’s house and the school. Dare I suggest those kids whose moms didn’t drive them could walk or ride bikes? But no, in its infinite illogic, the HCS has been sending a bus to pick up those who live more than 2 miles away, a bus that costs (and I can’t imagine this includes driver and gas, but let’s pretend it does) $269 a day.

The second map is a close-up of how many homes are beyond the 2-mile limit, in other words, recipients of bus service.

Question Time:

Why on earth would the double up scheme be employed for a stretch of a few blocks? What is it going to entail? Picking up a half dozen kids at 7:25 and another half dozen at 7:35?

Has the HCS really been paying $50,000 a year for a bus for a few blocks of kids? OK, if they are beyond the 2-mile limit, they are entitled to transportation. So let’s take off our dunce caps and put on our thinking caps.

What about using taxis instead? Consider:

Outside the airport, taxis in the city must charge the same rate, which is set by the Huntsville City Council. Taxis must charge $2.50 for the first half-mile and $2 for each additional mile.

And that’s not a contract rate, which would be less. But let’s do the math. Two-and-a-half miles = $2.50 + $2 +$2=$6.50 a trip. Twice a day= $13. 180 days=$2340, a savings of $47,660 a year. In other words, you could bring those same kids to school in a van sized taxi for 21 years for the price of 1 year’s bus. Even if you needed 3 van-sized taxis, the yearly savings would be $42,980 a year.

There’s another dimension to this as well. Several, actually. Let’s think about the new Bus Rules, the automatic suspension of two days the second time a kid misbehaves on the bus.

When your bus ride is a grand total of 2.4 miles, it doesn’t leave much time to get in trouble. And if you do manage to get kicked off, and mom won’t drive, you walk. Big deal.

When your bus ride is a whole lot longer, longer than 17 miles if you live at the edge of the Providence [B] district [A] or 7, if you live in the middle [C] — and of course those mileages are if you made no loops through other neighborhoods, you have a whole lot more time to get in trouble. And walking from either of those locations? Gimme a break.

View Larger Map

So Dr. Jennie Robinson, District 3, you’ve kept your constituents from taking any of the hardships wrought by your fiscal irresponsibility.

After all, in your campaign last year, you said:

Putting a child on a bus for over an hour a day, disconnecting the child from the support of family and neighbors, and creating barriers of time and distance for parents also doesn’t make sense.

But at the Saturday July 16, 2011, meeting you were quivering so with excitement for Dr. Wardynski’s plan for putting the Providence sixth graders on two buses to Williams that  you were motioning to approve (or maybe you could only get in with the second) before he had a chance to present it.

And then there’s this under “What I Believe” on your website:

 Families should have a voice in education decisions that impact children.

Exactly how did that work in the Providence to Williams decision, the Bus Rules, the Bus Rescheduling? Parents are just now, after these are done deals, finding out about them.

And by the way, I don’t have a kid at Providence, and I don’t have a kid who rides any bus.

I just care about kids.

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