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Board of Ed. split on extra buses for Hancock schools

March 08, 2001

Board of Ed. split on extra buses for Hancock schools



By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

At least two Washington County School Board members would support paying $138,000 for four additional Hancock-area contract buses to reduce the length of time some students must wait before and after school, they said Tuesday.

Other board members said they didn't know how the school system could afford four additional contract buses.

Under the current transportation system, Hancock students who live in the outlying areas are picked up and taken to school first, and then must wait there about 40 minutes until the bus goes back and picks up other students.

At the end of the day, those same students must wait another 40 minutes before they are taken home.

School Board Vice President Bernadette Wagner said the students must endure long days in a "holding tank," which affects learning and disrupts teacher planning time.

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"Some of these kids live so far from school that they are picked up 40 minutes early, and then they go in the holding tank for 40 minutes," she said.

The school system runs eight buses in Hancock, which costs $24,000 to $44,000 a year, School Board President J. Herbert Hardin has said.

Wagner suggested that the board find $138,000 in its budget for the four contracted buses. The contracts would cost $34,500 each, according to estimates by Chris Carter, director of transportation.

"I know we have to look at the financial aspects, but I also feel we have to look at the educational aspects too," Board member Roxanne Ober said.

School Board member Paul Bailey said he didn't know how the school system would come up with $138,000, while board member Edward Forrest said it might happen only if the school system had unlimited money.

"If we're going to use $138,000, I don't see that as being an option," Bailey said. "I'd like to see some creative way in dealing with this."

Board member Mary Wilfong suggested using creative ways for children to spend their time while waiting, such as participating in YMCA programs at the school or other programs.

Board member Doris Nipps said she didn't think the waiting times were that much of a concern among parents and that students at other schools also wait, just not as long.

Ober said if the board is trying to save money under Hancock's current busing system, why it doesn't it implement the same system in all schools.

All grade levels in Hancock ride together the buses.

"I don't think you're giving kids an opportunity or a choice," Ober said of the Hancock students. "I think everyone suffers. Eighty minutes of their lives are spent in the holding tank."

The board directed Carter to find a more precise cost estimate and to ask the Hancock principals for feedback.

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