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Washington County schools' transportation policy proposal not a response to incident

School board member says episode played a role in decision to examine process

School board member says episode played a role in decision to examine process

May 02, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN -- Changes to the Washington County Public Schools transportation policy that are being considered are not in response to miscommunication last year that led a kindergartner to be dropped off at the wrong bus stop, the school system's transportation supervisor said Thursday.

"I think it's a little false to continue to represent that we're changing it as a reaction (to the incident)," Supervisor of Transportation Barbara Scotto said. "Because that's not the case at all."

A kindergartner was dropped off at the wrong bus stop last year nearly two miles from his home.

Board of Education member Bernadette M. Wagner said during a committee meeting Thursday that the incident played a role in the decision to examine the way the school system addresses transporting students.

The policy change being considered would require students to be picked up and dropped off each day at one consistent bus stop. Current practice allows parents to arrange in advance for students to be picked up and dropped off at several stops throughout the week. Parents also may send a note to school with the student asking that the student ride a different bus than the one he normally rides.

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The board is expected to vote on whether to change its transportation policy during its May 20 public business meeting.

In the incident last year, the student was riding a different bus home than his usual bus. Wagner said that the "reason the (policy) came about" was because of that incident.

Scotto said it was important to focus on the reason for the changes being considered.

"It is not based on the incident that occurred in October," she said. "Practices that parents have become accustomed to and the school system has allowed to happen (have) driven us into this place where we need to regain some ground in managing this situation."

During a committee meeting Thursday, board members and school system staff discussed including some flexibility in the proposed policy changes that would recognize the need for transportation for students with special permission to attend a school outside of his district.

Justin M. Hartings - a Keedysville resident and a candidate for the board - has said that the proposed policy is modeled after a "1940s family" and that consideration should be given to family situations, changes in work schedules and other parent needs that exist in Washington County.

Hartings also said that the policy, which states, "transportation services will not be provided to students who have been granted permission to attend a school outside of the student's home school attendance area," would prevent access to the county's magnet schools. Current practice allows students who participate in magnet programs with special permission to be picked up and dropped off at existing bus stops for the student's school.

Schools officials said Thursday that they will change the proposed policy to allow students attending schools with special permission to continue to be transported to and from that school.

Officials also said they will change the policy to require that those students provide the address of a house or a daycare provider where that child is going after school. That place must be near the bus stop where the child is dropped off.

Assistant Superintendent for School Operations Boyd Michael said those changes are being considered to enhance student safety.

If you go . . .



What: Washington County Board of Education public business meeting where the board is expected to vote on a transportation policy change

When: Tuesday, May 20, 6 p.m.

Where: Washington County Public Schools central office, 820 Commonwealth Ave., Hagerstown

Details: For more information, call 301-766-2800.

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