ALACHUA – Alachua County Public Schools ended its “courtesy busing” effective Jan. 16, 2024. This sparked some discussion during the Monday, Jan. 22 joint meeting between the Alachua County School Board and the Alachua City Commission.

“Courtesy busing” are those stops and rides provided to students who live within two miles of their zoned school and are not ESE (Exceptional Student Education) students. The school district announced the changes in fall 2023.

On the heels of those changes, speaking at the joint meeting, School Board Member Tina Certain expressed concern that Alachua did not have adequate school crossing guards.

As the discussion developed however, it became clearer that the School District had not contacted the Alachua Police Department (APD) to discuss how the changes in busing policy might affect the number and location of student pedestrians.

“We certainly haven’t been made aware of any bus route changes that would require us to add any additional school crossing guards,” said Alachua Police Department Chief Jesse Sandusky.

Certain claimed to have received calls from parents regarding the crossing guard issue in Alachua. She also alluded to a Jan. 20, 2023 pedestrian accident that claimed the life of 5-year-old Kaiden Mincey, an Irby Elementary School student.

Chief Sandusky noted that the department does have a school crossing guard placed in the area where the 2023 accident occurred. Sandusky and Alachua City Manager Mike DaRoza both also noted that all four of the City’s school crossing guard positions are filled, and when a crossing guard calls out from work, a police officer steps in to handle school crossings.

Still, Sandusky said the police department could evaluate if there are any other areas in need of a crossing guard. “We can take a look and see how the change in bus routes affected our area, but I was not made aware of anything,” he said.

The apparent lapse in communications became clear when Alachua Vice-Mayor Dayna Miller inquired as to how the Alachua Police Department would know there was a change in need for crossing guards. Alachua County Public School Superintended Shane Andrew responded that the school district’s transportation department would need to contact the police department to inform them of the changes.

Andrew said the police department would typically be working with the school district’s director of transportation.

“[I]f we created [a need for a crossing guard], then they would bring that forward from the school district’s department of transportation,” Andrew said.

Andrew vowed that the school district administration would follow up with the Alachua Police Department to discuss the changes and assist in evaluating needs for crossing guards.

Alachua County school district officials estimate that courtesy routes required 16 buses district wide at an annual cost of about $1.8 million. The district reports that it does not receive reimbursement from the State for these additional costs. The changes in “courtesy busing” are believed to affect about 1,200 students in the district.

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