Special needs students are dropped from bus route - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Special needs students are dropped from bus route

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By Jeanie Powell - bio | email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Some Huntsville parents were told the special needs buses their children take to school will be canceling their routes to save money in the second year of proration. 

There are more than a hundred bus routes in Huntsville. Each costs about $48,000 to run a year. There are more than 300 special needs kids in the city whose individualized education plan has transportation included in it, until now.

Katina Williams' autistic son waits on his special needs school bus every day at this spot, but she received a  letter that informed her she'll have to find another way to get him to school. 

The letter says the state department of education allows a local board to make a payment in lieu of transporting students where it's impractical to do so. It adds the school system doesn't have enough special needs students to warrant the cost.

Parents have until February 19th to submit an acceptance form to be reimbursed for travel expenses beginning March 8th.

"They've had that program for the longest," said Williams. "So I'm trying to figure out what's going on why are we just now being informed."

"It's not an option for me because I'm a full time student and parent," said Andrea Thompson whose son has autism and asperger's and goes to Grissom, even though they live outside the school district. "He leaves home at 6:35 in morning and isn't not back home until 4:00, but it's because of the program, the structure and his peers."

The school system spokesman said a telephone survey by the special education department revealed at least 90 percent of participating parents said they'd rather take the money instead of having their special needs child ride the bus. Thompson says she's in the minority. Williams said she never got a call.

Huntsville City School spokesman Keith wWard says parents who have a problem with these changes need to contact the special education department. Thompson says she did that but was told it's either cut this service or lay off teachers.

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