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School board member: Washington County bus policy is 'messed up'

October 10, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Washington County Board of Education member Ruth Anne Callaham said she believes a new busing rule is flawed and called the policy "messed up."

Callaham said communication has broken down between school officials and parents, and the appeals process isn't working for those who are denied their transportation requests.

Since summer, school officials have received 867 requests asking that students be picked up and dropped off at different locations, schools spokesman Richard Wright said. The policy approved in May allows one consistent morning bus stop and one afternoon bus stop. Those two stops can be different.

Of the 867 requests, all but 48 have been approved, some because they violated the new policy, Wright said. Five families have appealed those rulings, asking that their children be picked up and dropped off at more than one bus stop throughout the week.

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None of those appeals have been approved, but Wright said some families were given temporary extensions so they could arrange for day care or make other arrangements.

Karen Wilson is one of those parents.

Wilson, the mother of a Cascade Elementary School student, told the School Board during its Tuesday meeting that she works one day each week, and her son attends day care on that day.

Because of the new busing rule, her son cannot be dropped off at day care on that one day and at her home the other four. Wilson has filed an appeal and was given a temporary extension. Without it, though, Wilson will have to drive more than one mile each day to pick up her son instead of the same bus dropping him off at his house.

Wilson told the School Board that the new policy did not assist in children's safety, but rather the board's own liability.

Sharon Harrison, the grandmother of children affected by the new busing policy, said she will continue to speak out against the policy until it is changed.

During a meeting last month, Board of Education member Wayne D. Ridenour proposed a change to the current policy, allowing two consistent morning pickup locations and two afternoon drop-off locations - aiding the mostly divorced or single parents who have said the policy adversely affects their work schedules or custody arrangements.

That motion was defeated 5-1, with Ridenour the only member in favor of the change. Callaham was absent for the vote.

During an interview Wednesday, Callaham said she continues to work for a resolution for parents.

"Personally, I will continue to seek resolution every board meeting until we get something we can work with," she said. "I will not let it ride the school year. We're not waiting the school year out. That's for sure."

When the new policy was approved in May, Ridenour and board member Paul W. Bailey were the only board members to vote against it.

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