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School transportation policy -- Consistency leads to safety

August 26, 2008|By BERNADETTE WAGNER

As a member of the Washington County Board of Education, I voted to implement the new transportation policy recommended by staff. The Board of Education has heard from a number of citizens, including Commissioner Jim Kercheval, who are displeased with the new policy. Kercheval publicly stated his concerns at a joint meeting on July 15, 2008.

He stated that the new policy might require families, especially families in which both parents work or are divorced, to make changes that could be difficult.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Census Bureau, in a little more than 50 percent of two-parent families, both parents work outside the home and half of all marriages end in divorce.

All across this state and the nation, working and divorced parents cope with much stricter transportation policy than the newly adopted WCPS policy.

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School systems are charged with providing safe, efficient and cost effective transportation from home to school and back. In an attempt to be sensitive to working and divorced parents, the policy committee, which originally considered requiring the same morning and afternoon stop for each student, decided to allow for one consistent morning stop and one consistent afternoon stop.

The policy also allows for an appeal process and requires a review of the policy after one year to determine its effectiveness.

In my opinion, the previous lenient transportation policy was partially responsible for a 5-year-old getting off at the wrong bus stop. Even before the tremendous public outcry over that incident, the policy needed to be changed.

I support the revised policy because it will reduce the number of variables with which the WCPS staff will need to contend. Fewer variables mean fewer risks when transporting more than 20,000 students twice daily.

The Board of Education's responsibility is to develop prudent policy that is equitable and judicious. In this case, it must stay focused on providing safe, efficient transportation for all 20,000 children in the system. It is up to parents --married, divorced, unemployed or working -- to provide a way for their children to take advantage of that transportation.

Bernadette M. Wagner is a member of the Washington County School Board.

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