Danny Hood, Director of Transportation for Putnam Schools, speaks to school board members at a workshop Thursday. Hood gave members an estimate of $28,000 to transport children this year to and from the soon-to-open Putnam Academy of Arts and Sciences. Hood said the estimate excludes transporting students from Interlachen, eliminating a 26-mile trip between the new campus at the old Browning-Pearce.
What began as a workshop discussion about the District cost of transportation and repairs to the old Browning-Pearce campus for a new charter school turned into a near unanimous voice by PCSD School Board Members to end transportation funding for all Putnam charter schools.
PCSD Danny Hood told the board that his estimates show it would cost the district about $28,000 next year to move kids to and from the Putnam Academy of Arts & Sciences, which opens this August at the old East Palatka school's campus. The estimate did not include the Interlachen area in an effort to save funds.
Hood's estimate to transport students attending PAAS and the Children's Reading Center next year is $32,666.
"I believe we can do that," Townsend said at the workshop.
PCSD Facilities head consultant Scott Gattshall said at the workshop that the district is approaching spending more on the old Browning-Pearce facility than the $25,000 the board set as a cap at a previous regular meeting. He said at the workshop PCSD would spend about $29,000 including carpet-cleaning that teachers forming the school requested.
Improvements so far include plumbing work, pressure washing and restroom upgrades to bring facilities within ADA compliance.
PCSD Superintendent Tom Townsend told the board he wanted to continue to help the charter school, CRC and the charter New Tech High School opening in the fall of 2013.
All board members expressed concern with paying any transportation costs of all charter schools going forward, naming tight financial times.
Starting in the 2011-12 school year, the state of Florida eliminated $55 million in PECO dollars from traditional public schools and turned them over to charter schools. http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2011-07-25/news/os-charter-school-construction-dollar20110724_1_traditional-schools-john-pavelchak-charter-schools
Hood said that some area counties, including St. Johns and Volusia, limit busing to charter schools and often charge for the cost.
When the Children's Reading Center formed, Townsend said the district was in different times.
"They actually wrote a check to the district for thirty-some thousand dollars," he said. "We're already doing things over at that (PAAS) campus that we weren’t willing to do at the Children's Reading Center," Townsend said.
Townsend and board members agreed the continued funding takes away from traditional public schools in a time when Tallahassee's plan clearly encourages the initiation of charter schools.
"I just don't have a good feeling about funding transportation for any charter, because I don't know how we're going to make that money back," PCSD Board Member Terry Wright said.
Wright had the same message for CRC, PAAS and New Tech.
"Go ahead and signal we're getting out of the transportation business," Wright said.
Board Member Kathy Jorgensen said with the drain of funds from traditional public schools, the time to supplement transportation for any charter school should be over.
"I don't know why we should fund them," she said. "Why can't they pay transportation costs?"
Board Member Nikki Cummings told Gattshall he should stop non-critical maintenance at the old Browning-Pearce and nix the idea of the district footing the bill for carpet-cleaning to get back near the board-mandated cap.
"There is no more free ride -- period," Cummings said.
Townsend said he will make a recommendation on the matter at the July 10 PCSD School Board meeting.
"The district has been moving forward and doing the work," Townsend said. "This comes down to how much the board wants to spend."
In other news: Board members discussed continuing with the Drop Back In program -- which seeks residents who have dropped out of school and has them pursue a regular high school diploma. Consensus among members was that despite attendance problems with the program in its first year-plus in Putnam, they want to give DBI another year to work with its challenging target population. A decision could not be made as public workshops do not include considering items for a vote.