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Washington County school board expected to vote tonight on bus policy change

May 20, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- It's a change that would offer less flexibility for parents, but one that school officials say will improve student safety.

The Washington County Board of Education is expected to vote tonight on a policy change that would affect student transportation.

The change would require students to be picked up and dropped off each day at a consistent bus stop. The morning pick-up location would not have to be the same as the afternoon drop-off.

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 or she normally rides.

However, the policy could be changed today before the board votes on it. A committee is scheduled to review the policy, and Board Vice President Donna Brightman said committee members will discuss the results of surveys completed by parents about the proposed change.

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Brightman said that if "significant changes" are made by the committee, the board could reach consensus to postpone the vote. That would allow time for the Board of Education members and the public to review the revised policy before a vote is taken.

Justin M. Hartings, a Keedysville resident and a candidate for the Board of Education, said that he hopes that if a vote is taken today it is on the original policy approved in draft form earlier this month. He said that any changes made today would not be available to the public before the vote.

Hartings has previously spoken out against some portions of the proposed transportation policy saying it is modeled after a 1940s family and does not reflect the realities of a family in 2008.

As of Monday night, the policy in its current form was not available to the public on the Washington County Public Schools Web site (www.wcboe.k12.md.us), which typically has drafts of policies being considered.

"If it's not available to the public, that tells me that they still must be making changes to the policy," Hartings said. "Otherwise, there would be no reason not to make it available to the public."

Board Member Wayne D. Ridenour said the board heard from those who have concerns about the proposed policy, including Hartings.

"We want to be as accommodating as we can without sacrificing safety," Ridenour said. "We want to look out for the safety of our kids, but we also have to look our for the safety of our system and our employees. There's only so much we can ask our employees to do."

If you go ...



What: Washington County Board of Education public meeting where a vote is expected on whether to approve a new policy that affects bus transportation.

When: Today, 6 p.m.

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

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