Hoover City Schools delays plans to charge bus fees until 2015-2016 school year
Published 2:59 pm Tuesday, May 6, 2014
By CASSANDRA MICKENS/Associate Editor
HOOVER — Hoover school officials have delayed plans to charge students a fee to ride the school bus until the 2015-2016 school year.
The Hoover Board of Education in April unanimously voted to charge a bus fee. The decision now awaits approval by the U.S. District Court.
In a May 6 letter to school stakeholders, Superintendent Andy Craig wrote, “… the overarching goal is to provide a model of improved student transportation service for our community while responsibly addressing the costs of the program through multiple sources of funds.”
The school board’s initial decision to cut bus service in July 2013 was met with opposition from some parents and residents who claimed the move was an attempt to rid the school system of minority and low-income students. School officials maintain the decision was strictly financial, citing the bus cuts would save $2.5 million annually. School officials also said transportation has become underfunded in recent years, and the shortfall is compounded with consistent enrollment growth.
The school board unanimously voted to rescind its decision to cut bus service in December 2013. Since that time, school officials have been in talks with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, reviewing transportation services with the common goal of best serving students.
“We envision Hoover City Schools providing world-class pupil transportation services using a cost-sharing model whereby state earmarked transportation funds are combined with local tax receipts and equitably administered ridership charges for students choosing to ride,” Craig wrote. “Currently we are working toward implementation with the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year.”
Craig wrote that school officials have already begun to think about the possibilities of a cost sharing transportation model. One possibility is “the integration of technology that will enhance the safety and efficiency of our student transportation services,” Craig wrote. Another possibility is “the increased potential for implementing enhanced supervision on buses.”
“There is also the possibility that this transportation model could be the springboard to overcoming existing restrictions that have historically excluded students from transportation services and truly provide transportation choice to all of our students and families,” Craig wrote.
“As we look forward, there is no doubt that we are engaged in a process of change — movement away from ‘how it has always been done’ to a transportation model that I believe will better serve our students, families and school system.”
Enclosed with Craig’s letter was a question and answer document, outlining the bus fees and how many students ride the bus. The total 2014 school year enrollment for grades K-12 is 13,882, and official ridership for the same school year is 6,585. Of that number, there are approximately 6,266 average daily riders.