Nine families denied school bus special requests under new Washington Co. rules

August 07, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A new bus transportation rule affecting Washington County Public Schools students has resulted in nine families being denied the transportation options they requested.

Transportation Supervisor Barbara Scotto said that as of Tuesday, 56 requests were received asking that students be picked up and dropped off at different locations. All but nine were approved because they met the newly adopted guidelines.

Those guidelines, approved in May, restrict students to one morning pick-up location and one afternoon drop-off location. Those stops can be different.

Samuel Baker, of Hagerstown, was one of the parents whose request was denied.

Baker, who has a 14-year-old son at Smithsburg High School, said he and his ex-wife are divorced, but they pledged to live in the same school district so that bus transportation would be an option for their son.


Their son lives with his mother for three days during the school week, and with his father the other two. The new policy does not allow their son to be picked up and dropped off at his mother's house three days during the week, and from his father's home the remaining days.

"It was denied (Tuesday) for my son to meet the bus directly behind my house ... to go to the same school he does at his mother's house," Baker said. "We feel we're being penalized because we're a separated family."

Baker said he and his ex-wife both work. He works a shift that does not allow him to drop his son off at school or pick him up after school.

"In my particular instance, (my son) is being denied his access to school," Baker said. "I have legal custody of my son two days a week. How can I be denied transportation for my son to go to his school?"

Scotto said that many families she has spoken to about the new policy are divorced or separated. She said most have said they will make changes to their current arrangements to accommodate the new rules.

"It's tough," Scotto said. "It's hard. It's a different way of thinking. It isn't easy, but it's important that we do this for the safety of the children."

There is an appeals process, which Baker said he will explore, that includes several steps, including a decision by Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan and the Board of Education.

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