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Washington County Board of Education supports review of bus rules

November 02, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Some Washington County Board of Education members said they agree with the decision to reinforce existing procedures after a kindergartner boarded the wrong school bus in October and was dropped off two miles from home.

They said clarifying those practices could improve the process of bus transportation and help keep students safe.

Schools spokesman Will Kauffman has said that no new practices were established after the incident, but a review of current procedures began that day.

"When things happen, you look to see how you can tighten up," Board Vice President Wayne D. Ridenour said. "You always look to make things more effective and more efficient."

The procedures that were discussed included what to do if a student will be riding a different bus for some reason.

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That was the case with the Funkstown School for Early Childhood Education student who boarded the wrong bus.

The boy had a note, as is required, but officials have said that a miscommunication among staff at the school led him to get onto the wrong bus.

Bus drivers are told to ask for a student's name, and also for the note that will be signed by school administrators, allowing the student to ride a different bus. The school should have a copy of that note, and the bus driver is not allowed to leave the school with the student without that note, Kauffman has said.

Board Member Paul W. Bailey said he believes that making these procedures available to parents would be useful.

"Probably for elementary children in the future we should put something in writing prior to the start of school, probably make it part of a handbook or something that all students have," he said.

Ridenour, who agreed with Bailey's suggestion, said the reinforcement of existing transportation procedures could be compared to additional security measures that were taken in county schools last year.

"We recognized there were things that needed to be fixed, so they were fixed," Ridenour said. "We were expediting things that were on the books, and looking for other ways to improve."

Board Member Ruth Anne Callaham said communicating with employees about what is expected of them was a good decision.

"I don't care who you are, it's a chance to look at how the job is supposed to be done, and do it that way," she said. "We're telling the employees we have a high expectation, and we're going to help you meet that expectation by reviewing these things."

Board Member Donna Brightman said she believes the review will benefit students and staff.

"In a very broad sense, anytime you can look at a situation and say, 'How can we do this better?' it's a good idea," she said.

She said that the school system tries to work with parents who have complex transportation needs for their children. Some communities do not allow children to take a bus that is not their regular route, but Washington County works with parents and the communities to meet their needs, Brightman said.

Board President Roxanne R. Ober and Board Members Bernadette M. Wagner and William H. Staley could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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