Bus rides to school for thousands of students could be eliminated in the Hillsborough County Fla district Hillsborough County Public Schools

Bus rides to school for thousands of students could be eliminated in the Hillsborough County (Fla.) district.

7,500 students in Hillsborough County, Fla., could lose free bus rides

The school district may end "courtesy rides" to students who live closer than 2 miles to their schools.

Nearly 7,500 students middle and high school students in the Hillsborough County (Fla.) district could lose their free bus rides in the next school year as the district looks for spending cuts.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that the students who would be affected are "courtesy riders" who live within two miles of their schools. That's the point at which the state considers transportation a parent's responsibility.

A consultant has estimated that the Hillsborough district could save as much as $9.5 million a year by phasing out courtesy busing. The School Board is expected to vote on the plan next week.

HIllsborough officials say some of the existing courtesy routes were likely triggered by short-term issues, such as construction, and never deleted.

Although 7,495 students would see their free transportation eliminated under the plan, another 803 will keep their rides because of roadside hazards that make the paths to their schools dangerous. The state criteria for hazards include traffic volume, speed limit and whether a road has a wide enough shoulder.

Parents who believe children's routes to school are hazardous are being encouraged to report those conditions to the district to see if the routes should be designated as hazardous.

Phasing out courtesy rides is one of many steps the district is taking to cut $130 million in spending.

Many students in the district do not rely on school buses to get to and from school.  Jim Beekman, the district's general manager of transportation, says more than 50,000 elementary students in Hillsborough County that live within two miles do not receive bus transportation.

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