Maddox proposes StarMetro buses for students
By Danyelle Johnson
First the Leon County School Board decided to let students begin classes an hour later.
Now City Commissioner Scott Maddox is pushing a plan that would allow those students to hop the city’s public transportation, StarMetro. His main concern is students who depend solely on school buses for transportation, Maddox said.
Maddox’s proposal to allow students to ride StarMetro buses comes on the heels of the school board’s unanimous decision to allow students to start school as late as 8:30 a.m. The school board said it reached its decision because research shows that students learn better when they start the day later.
Maddox, who has indicated that he’ll run for superintendent of schools, favors the option for later start. However, he is adamant about pushing his busing proposal with the idea that it will even the playing field for students who don’t have any other means to get to school.
“All of our children deserve the opportunity to learn to the best of their ability,” said Maddox. “I’ve been pushing this; kids that have cars or parents that drop them off can start later, but the kids who ride a bus cannot. That’s a two-tier system.”
But before the commission takes any further action on the proposal, it will conduct a cost and feasibility study. StarMetro’s schedules and routes are two aspects that will be considered. The findings could be on the agenda for the next commissioner meeting on March 23.
Commissioner Gil Ziffer said the concept could actually put more passengers in the city busses.
“We’ve got an underutilized bus system,” he said. “I think it’s important for us to do whatever we can to give equal opportunities. This is not something we should lightly stand by.”
Joy Bowen, vice chair of the school board, isn’t so convinced that the proposal matters, although a similar plan is already in place for a handful of cities in the state.
“Students were still learning when they had to be in class at 8 o’clock and students are still learning now,” she said, adding that students will be expected to get up early when they go off to college or even join the workforce.
Kimberly Damron, mother of a seventh-grader, has a different concern.
“Starting school later is controversial,” she said. “Change is scary, complex and challenging, but in my mind there is no question that this change needs to happen. We all care about our kids and there are strong emotions on both sides of the issue.”
While students’ safety on Star-Metro buses is a concern, Maddox said it shouldn’t be an issue.
“Of course,” Maddox said, “each bus has 12 cameras, each driver wears a uniform and must pass the background check and each bus can speak with radio communication.”