After taking heat from parents and community activists, Atlanta Public Schools reversed field Wednesday night on its cost-cutting transportation plan. The system announced it will spend another $2.8 million to increase bus service, especially in downtown neighborhoods where kids had been forced to walk to school.
The change came less than 48 hours after parents protested outside APS headquarters and railed at the school board during its Monday night meeting, demanding bus service be restored for students who live within a mile of elementary schools in communities such as Pittsburgh, near Turner Field, where 44 percent of households have no transportation, according to U.S. census data.
Pittsburgh resident Travie Leslie told the board Monday she was concerned there are a lot of registered sex offenders living in her school district. The GBI's sex offender registry lists 192 sex offenders in the two zip codes that include Pittsburgh.
Leslie said Thursday she was happy APS will restore bus service for her two elementary school children starting Monday. But she and others who live in Pittsburgh and nearby said APS also needs to mend relations with residents in the community, who weren't notified until the day before school started — by computerized telephone calls — that the bus service was being discontinued.
"It was the most disrespectful thing I have ever seen," Leslie said.
School board Vice Chairman Byron Amos, whose district includes Pittsburgh, made the motion Monday that put transportation up for discussion, leading the board to ask the transportation department to review its revised plan, which also cut bus service elsewhere.
APS spokesman Keith Bromery said Thursday the school system has been making adjustments to the transportation plan since the start of school, and Wednesday's revision simply "quantified it at this particular point in time, as many of the additional routes and stops announced have already been implemented."
Under the revised plan the district will add 49 buses to the fleet and 850 additional stops to existing routes. APS also will add crossing guards. Another change: Every Friday APS will notify parents of any changes in pupil transportation through postings on its website, email messages, automated phone calls, Twitter, fliers and letters.
Bromery said $2.8 million to fund the revised transportation plan will come from "specific areas where budgeted revenues can be redirected to support those transportation costs," but he could not be more specific. The transportation and fleet maintenance budget for APS in fiscal year 2013, before this revised plan, was about $17 million.
The school system said it also will work with local and state agencies to address crime and abandoned and neglected properties in the neighborhoods. State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, sharply criticized the school board Monday night for acting like crime in the neighborhoods was a city or police problem, not a school board problem.
Community activist Douglas Dean, CEO of Summerhill Neighborhood Inc., said Thursday his group wants to be part of the city and school board effort to clean up the neighborhoods. "In the end, we're all going to gain out of this," Dean said.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.