Bay District Schools Looking Closer At Courtesy Rides

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PANAMA CITY BEACH - Bay County school officials are taking a closer look at courtesy rides. The program allows children, who live off a busy street near the school, to ride the bus.

Kayla Beamon and her 8 year old son rely heavily on the school bus.

"He has to have a bus. I mean he can't just walk to school especially, as you can see, on Back Beach Road. It's very busy," said Beamon.

Beamon's son is one of nearly 3,000 children the district calls courtesy riders.

"Many roads out there that are unsafe for the children to cross and that's why we started the courtesy program. The problem is it has expanded beyond that," said Bob Downin, Director of Transportation for Bay District Schools.

The district pay more than $1 million for the program, with no help from the state.

District officials are trying to get funding from the state for children who are within two miles of their school but live on busy roads. They want to categorize roads like Back Beach Road as "hazardous walking areas."

The courtesy rider program, along with sports, arts, and school resource deputies, face possible cuts to pay the $5 million dollars for for an extra hour of class for elementary schools.

That proposal is still in the research stages.

"They're looking at all the spending. The board members, the superintendent, the finance department are looking at all kinds of numbers to see how we can make this happen," said Denise Kelley, Director of Elementary Instruction for Bay District Schools.

Parents like Beamon are concerned about any cuts to the program especially with a dangerous road in her backyard.

"I would not let him walk anywhere near this road. I even have a problem with him getting off the bus right here because it's so close to the road," said Beamon.

School transportation officials are submitting their funding requests to the state in the next few weeks. It could take several months to get a response.