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Ride The Bus Or Face Suspension? That's What Some Levy County Students Are Being Told

In Levy County, some parents are grumbling about their kids being forced to ride the bus.

Students in the Focus program at Bronson Middle/High school say they're being told their parents can no longer drop them off. The program aims to help students with learning and behavioral issues.

Those parents say they've suddenly been told their students must always use the bus or face suspension.

The school holds a student population of just over 550 students. A small number now attend the Focus program started at the end of last school year.

Although school district officials say parents signed a contract agreeing to the terms of the program, parents say they were caught off-guard by a change in December.

"My son went to school," parent Mary Byrd said. "He comes home saying... 'He told me and three other students if we got dropped off tomorrow, we will be suspended.'"

Documents from Levy County's district transportation services cites that it shouldn't take more than an hour to get to and from school.

Parents of Focus program students say their kids are on the bus for two and a half hours leading up to the school day's opening bell.

Apart from the inconvenience to families, there are also concerns about restrictions during the school day.

"They send the kids to the program, and the kids are kind of treated like prisoners without bars," Regina Jones, the aunt of one student, said. "I mean, they apparently stay in this room all day, they have their lunch brought to them, there's no physical activity, exercise outside the room, they don't see daylight."

Byrd said she never received a contract for the program, and no one mentioned that a strict bus policy was in the works.

"And then when you call the school board and say why weren't we — as parents — notified about this new policy, their story is, 'Well, it's been this way since day one."

The principal and an assistant district superintendent declined interviews. John Lott, an assistant superintendent, did say the rule only applies to the Focus program.

Sky is a multimedia producer for WUFT News who can be reached by emailing slebron30@ufl.edu or calling 352-392-6397.