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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Charlotte Public Schools Cuts Bus Routes Of Black Students

Charlotte School Bus Cuts Put Strain On Black Parents

Just as the debate over millions in cuts to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is winding down toward a vote, conversations about changes to Transportation for Magnet School students is winding up.

Tuesday night, a passionate group of parents and students spoke to the CMS Board of Education. Wednesday, those passions weren't any lower at Piedmont IB Middle School, one of four schools that may see its bell schedule changed next year.

"It still hurts me, because I had to tell her, 'You won't able to go back to Piedmont if this happens,'" mother Francelia Andrade said, choking up during an interview with NewsChannel 36 outside the school.

She and her daughter, Bryana, got a round of applause after their comments at the BOE meeting Tuesday. Andrade, a mutual funds trader at Wachovia, is a Single Mom who is due at work no later than 8 a.m. Bryana walks to her bus stop each morning, and returns home to her ailing grandfather each afternoon.

The district's proposal would eliminate regular bus stops, and replace them with shuttle stops for magnet middle and high schools. Four middle school magnets -- Piedmont IB, Davidson IB, Smith Academy, and Marie G. Davis Academy -- would see their bell schedules pushed back by at least 1 1/2 hours to allow buses to run an extra route after having picked up other students earlier in the day.

Andrade says she cannot take Bryana to the shuttle stop that's been established for her because she has to be at work at the time Bryana would catch the bus.

Other parents and students expressed concerns about time for extracurricular activities and homework after school.

The Andrade's acknowledge that they've chosen the more complicated magnet school lifestyle, but resent the idea that they'd be forced to change schools before Bryana graduates.

"We told them they could get into the school and they could have transportation, and then we told them that we were changing the start time, and then we told them they couldn't have buses. That's a lot of change," CMS board member Tom Tate said. "I really am hopeful we are going to find the money some other way, but that's the problem -- I don't know that we are going to be able to find the money."

Superintendent Dr. Peter Gorman expressed a similar concern in a one-on-one interview with NewsChannel 36 after his Wednesday morning press conference.

"We don't have another way to make up those funds. If we would not do that, we would have to cut something else, and right now we don't have something else on the list to cut," Gorman said.

Throughout the budget process, board member Trent Merchant has suggested that magnet students who use buses may be asked to pay some sort of fee. The idea is similar to the "pay for play" concept the board looks poised to adopt for middle school sports. There is not sufficient support for the idea in the short-term, board president Eric Davis expects it will be seriously considered during tough budget times next year.

For more information on how changes will affect each school visit:

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Sources: CMS, McClatchy Newspapers, WCNC, Google Maps

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