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Hillsborough Co. parent concerned about 2-hour-long bus route to school

Posted: 6:23 PM, Nov 15, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-16 12:54:33Z

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla -- A parent is concerned about his kid’s bus route. He says it will take nearly two hours for him to get to a school that is 5 miles away from their house.

Jim Horning chose to send his 13-year-old son to Walker Middle Magnet school. He says recently they had to move but stayed in the same zip code as the school in hopes he could remain on a direct bus route. That did not happen.

"He has to get on the bus at 6:30 a.m. and school does not start until 8:30 a.m.,” said Horning.

The bus picks him up from the bus stop a half mile from his home and then heads south nearly 20 miles or about a 30-minute drive without rush hour traffic to an intersection where his son then transfers to another bus. That bus turns around and takes him right back to the area he came from. 

"I mean, I don’t want my child to do that,” Horning said. 

But the Hillsborough County School District says that’s what parents and students sign up for when they decide to enroll in a magnet school.

They say right now nearly 8,000 students already do this. The bus meets at a central location because students are coming from all over the district. They say it’s the most cost-efficient use of taxpayers’ dollars. 

"Families of magnet students are made aware when they apply for the program. Even though it can be a long bus ride, many families want their children to have the opportunity to attend a school with programs they don't have at their neighborhood school,” said Tanya Arja, a school district spokeswoman.

Horning says the bus passes the school to go 30 minutes out of the way and he does not understand how that’s efficient.  

"That’s the frustrating part is that it will be retracing steps,” he said.

He says there are three direct routes taking kids to the school all within the same zip code, “That’s when I say 'well why aren't we just picking up that neighborhood as well?'"

But the district says two of those routes are too far from his home and the third is a special needs bus. Horning hopes after getting with other parents in the same dilemma, the school district will work with them to come up with a better solution.