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Commissioner criticizes Washington County schools' transportation policy

July 16, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A Washington County Commissioner criticized a new transportation policy Tuesday that will be in place when students begin school in August.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval called the policy "bad" and said it helps Washington County Public Schools staff, not students and their parents. Kercheval made the comments during a meeting Tuesday between the two elected bodies.

The transportation policy was approved in May by the Board of Education. The ruling restricts students to one morning pickup location and one afternoon drop-off location. Those stops can be different.

Past practice allowed parents to arrange in advance for students to be picked up and dropped off at several stops throughout the week. Parents also could send a note to school with the student asking that the student ride a different bus than the one that he or she normally rides.

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"(This) is something much more consistent to promote safety and accountability for students," Supervisor of Transportation Barbara Scotto said, referring to the new policy.

However, Kercheval said Tuesday that the policy makes transporting students easier for school system staff, but will create problems for parents and students. He said the new policy does not allow a student to go to a daycare program after school two days each week, but take the bus home the remainder of the week. That schedule might be necessary, he said, for a parent who only works part time.

"Honestly, I just think that's a bad policy," Kercheval said. "It doesn't make a lot of sense to me that you would go that route."

Deputy Superintendent Boyd Michael responded that he and Scotto "disagreed" and that the policy works to eliminate a lot of the scheduling and transportation changes that can lead to safety issues for students.

"What staff tried to do, I believe, was balance what was safest for the kids and convenient for the parent," Board Member Wayne D. Ridenour said. "You'll never have a policy that will make everybody happy."

Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said that the policy change could create an influx of additional parents dropping their children off at school and picking them up in the afternoon instead of relying on bus transportation.

"I think this is going to mean that 30 or 40 more cars will be at these schools showing up," he said.

Aleshire cited Bester Elementary School as an example of a school that has issues during drop-off and pick-up and could be affected by the additional cars. He said that officials will need to determine how to prepare for the additional cars.

Ridenour said that if these problems or others are experienced as a result of the policy changes, the board could vote to make additional changes to its transportation policy.

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