Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Magnet Students Deal with Transportation Challenges; Slow Buses, Traffic Delays Greet Them on First Day of School

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Magnet Students Deal with Transportation Challenges; Slow Buses, Traffic Delays Greet Them on First Day of School

Article excerpt

Byline: Topher Sanders

The ground along Roosevelt Boulevard rumbled under 13-year-old Eh Htoo's feet Monday as morning commuters zipped passed him on their way to work.

Eh stood at the Jacksonville Transportation Authority's bus stop in front of Belk department store on Roosevelt to take his first JTA ride to Darnell-Cookman Middle/High School, where he is in eighth grade.

Eh and about 5,000 other Duval County public school students had to find new ways to get to their magnet schools on the district's first day of school.

Magnet transportation to seven of the dedicated magnet schools fell victim to budget cuts this summer, meaning students like Eh had to either have their parents drop them off, use JTA or more expensive private buses, or withdraw from the magnet program.

"The school bus is easier," Eh said. "I like it better because you have friends to talk to. But the city bus, it's a lot of strangers."

Rain Kwan, 13, one of Eh's schoolmates at Darnell-Cookman, spent some of her time on the bus, traveling from the Timuquana Road area, texting her friends along the way. Rain's mother, Angela Claiborne, rode with her but wished her daughter had paid more attention to the bus stops and transfers so she knew where to get on and off.

Claiborne will drive her daughter to school most mornings, but Rain will use JTA to get home.

"I'm just going to have to make sure that she pays attention," she said, smiling.

It will cost parents about $300 to purchase passes for students throughout the school year. A friend of Eh's family will purchase his passes.

Had it not been for the family friend, Eh's father would have had to drive him before 6 a.m. to the McDonald's restaurant across the street from Darnell-Cookman because of his father's work schedule.

Rain and Eh made it to school about 7:20 a.m., over an hour before the first bell rang.

Parents said the school and Jacksonville Sheriff's Office personnel did a good job of trying to keep traffic moving, but traffic did back up along Davis Street for about 15 to 20 minutes. …

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