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Bus contractors serve students in outlying areas of Washington County

July 25, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Four generations of Lisa Hoffman's family have worked as school bus contractors. The Hagerstown resident said even she is beginning to drive the children of former students.

Hoffman is the secretary of the Washington County School Bus Contractors Association, which represents 42 different contractors who drive 67 school buses for the local school system. Contractors are self-employed, and own their own buses.

Sandy Hovermale has been a bus contractor for 38 years and is president of the association. Her home outside of Funkstown has two school buses parked outside that she and her husband, Terry Hovermale, own and maintain. He is a past president of the group.

Sandy said she has started to drive grandchildren of students she took to school when she first started driving. And it's not uncommon to drive a student from the first day of kindergarten until the last day of high school, she said.

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"You really get to know the faces," said Glenda Rohrer, vice president of the association.

Rohrer has been a school bus driver for about 35 years, and now owns six school buses and still drives part time.

About 30 of the 42 contract drivers in the county have more than 20 years of experience, and 16 of those have more than 30 years of experience, Hoffman said. About 40 percent of school buses that pick up and drop off students at public schools in Washington County are owned by contractors, she said.

Hoffman said a new transportation policy adopted by the Washington County Board of Education will make daily routes easier on bus drivers when it goes into effect in August. The policy restricts students to one morning pickup and one afternoon drop-off location. Those stops can be different.

Rohrer and Sandy Hovermale said that in the past, they had notes from students who needed to be dropped off at different stops in the afternoon. The same student could have several different drop-off locations in the same week, they said.

Contractors typically are used for outlying areas of the county, including Hancock, Sandy Hook and Cascade, she said.

Hoffman's husband, Todd Hoffman, said having contract drivers is a cost savings for the county. The contractors purchase and maintain their buses, and pay payroll taxes and other fees associated with driving the bus. They are reimbursed for diesel, and receive $675 annually as a supplement, but are paid a lower hourly wage than drivers employed through Washington County Public Schools.

The association meets about six times each year, and acts as a unified voice for the county's contracted drivers when discussing contracts with Board of Education representatives.

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