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Possible bus route changes

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — For years, Bay District Schools had offered what they call ‘courtesy’ rides to school.

These rides were for the students who live within 1.99 miles of their school and received rides, despite not being funded by the state.

The state only funds bus rides to students living two miles from the school.

“We did it because we had a big push to get students in school. In regard to making sure they were sitting there in their desk, learning, from an attendance standpoint,” said Steve Moss, BDS School Board Chairman.

Now that Bay District Schools are having trouble filling the bus driver role, they can’t afford to pick up those courtesy riders.

“We’ve been doing everything we possibly know to do to attract drivers: incentives, recruiting campaigns, everything we can think of,” said Josh Balkom, Executive Director of Operations.

Removing the courtesy routes means taking away 25 to 30 routes.

“You know, it’s not something we want to do. We enjoy being able to provide above and beyond what is required by law, but this is not, you know, really a position we’re in right now,” said Balkom.

If this policy is approved next month, then an estimated 500-700 bay county district students will be affected.

“I voted no just because of the safety of it,” said Brenda Ruthven, District 2 School Board Member.

If the student lives in an area where it is considered a hazardous route to school, then they will still be eligible to ride the bus.

“We live in neighborhoods now that we’re not really sure when they walk to their neighborhood school… is it safe? And that’s my biggest concern,” said Ruthven.

The transportation policy will be voted on next month.

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