School systems are not required to transport bus riders to any location other than their primary residence. Members of the Clinton City Board of Education have decided to make every effort possible to deliver all children to any location — thus, resulting in the change in the bus policy and purchase of two additional buses.
During a previous meeting, CCS superintendent Dr. Stuart Blount notified board members that the current buses are filling to capacity, creating a problem with transporting more than 1,500 bus riders on a daily basis. While it is Blount’s job to ensure the safety of each and every student in the school system, he must do so efficiently and cost effectively.
According to Blount, the bus fleet transports 1,509 bus riders on a daily bases across the roadways in the district. Many of those students are either out of district students or students who are being transported to after-school care, a job Blount said the district isn’t required to do.
State law, does however, require a system to transport students to one location — their primary residence. With the system now facing an overcrowding issue on the buses, Blount recommended to the board needs to make one of two decisions — spend money to purchase two new buses or eliminate the option to transport out of district students and those going to after-school care.
The board chose to purchase two additional buses, costing the system nearly $170,000 for the buses and additional funds to hire two drivers and purchase fuel.
“For us to continue transporting these students,” Blount stated during the previous meeting, “we are hit with the job of purchasing two new buses.”
Funding the new buses wasn’t the only problem Blount presented to board members. Blount informed the board that the system was currently violating the board’s policy of transporting students to one location — their primary dwelling. The policy also states that students can be transported to other locations only if the request doesn’t cause the school system to incur any additional cost.
“I can’t purchase these two buses as the policy is currently written,” Blount said during an interview following the February meeting. “In order for me to purchase these buses, the board must adopt changes to the policy that allows me to transport students to other locations than their homes.”
During last week’s board meeting, members adopted the change to the bus policy, now allowing students to be transported to alternative locations other than their primary home. With the change, comes the additional expenditure of purchasing two new buses.
At the February meeting, board member Diane Viser shared her disapproval of spending additional funds to purchase the buses, citing other options as an avenue worth exploring. Viser reiterated those words last week, following the motion to change the policy.
“I would like to reiterate where I stand on this,” Viser said. “The board is in favor of changing the policy and purchasing two additional buses. We have other options that we could try. I think we need to delay the purchase of the buses. That money could be spent in other ways.”
Transporting students to locations other than their home, Blount said, has always been done as a courtesy because the space was available. Now, he added, the system has a problem and the buses are at risk for being overcrowded.
According to Blount, administrators are having to watch students getting on the buses everyday to make sure they aren’t overloaded. When that happens, Blount said they are forced to hold some students back and make a second load, resulting in students getting home later.
There are currently 42 out of district students who ride a school bus. A total of 99 students ride a bus to some form of day care, not including at-home day cares.
Board members E.R. Mason, Georgina Zeng and Carol Worley have all made their opinions clear, stating they could not eliminate any transportation for any students with a clear conscience.
Purchasing the two buses will eliminate a portion of the capital outlay funds that are slated to cover several projects over the next seven years. Included in those projects are new intercom systems at the schools, new fire alarm systems, replacement of heating and cooling system in the Sunset Avenue gym, outdoor track replacement at Clinton High School and roof replacements at several schools.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.