The Prince George's County Board of Education revised a plan to end 14 years of door-to-door busing of magnet school students last night, adding more stops in neighborhoods to appease parents who complained that the initial plan was inconvenient and potentially dangerous.
But most of the nearly 200 parents who attended last night's board meeting said the new plan still is not satisfactory.
The board voted last month to change its magnet school busing program to save $2 million to help fund teacher pay raises. Initially, the board planned to require the majority of the county's 12,000 magnet school students to go to the schools closest to their homes to catch the magnet buses. Parents said that they would have trouble dropping off their children before work and that it would be dangerous to allow them to walk long distances home after school.
Under the new plan, to which the board allocated $500,000 of the $2 million savings, the students will be picked up at neighborhood stops, similar to the way students at regular schools are picked up.
But many parents said the board's new plan is shortsighted because there are fewer magnet school students in each neighborhood--sometimes only one--meaning the "cluster stops" still will be far apart.
"Magnet school students live much farther apart. For my daughter, the next closest [magnet school] person lives three miles away," said Calvin Drake, whose daughter will attend a middle school magnet program this fall. "How is she going to get home?"
Many parents said the board is acting too quickly and has not done a good job explaining the plan. They said they should have been given a chance to raise money to supplement the busing system.
"I'm worried about my child's safety," Phyllis Williamson said. "My child has to catch a bus at 10 to 6 [in the morning]. . . . When it's in October, November, what's my child supposed to do--sit out there in the dark waiting for the bus to come?"
But board members said the magnet school students would have no greater inconvenience or risk than other students.
"It won't require parents to drive long distances to drop them off," said board Vice Chairman Doyle Neimann (Mount Rainier). "They will be treated in the same fashion all of our students are treated."
Among parents expressing satisfaction with the plan was Jeanne Jennings, whose three daughters attend Central High in Capitol Heights. "It sounds like a reasonable compromise," Jennings said. "It doesn't seem necessary to have door-to-door service."
The only board member who voted against the new plan was Marilynn Bland (Clinton). She said that while she supports raises for teachers, the board should not cut programs that directly impact students to pay for the raises.