Board votes to relax Washington County school bus policy

November 18, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Six months after passing a more restrictive school bus transportation policy, the Washington County Board of Education voted Tuesday to lessen those restrictions.

However, some of the policy's critics, who have been speaking out publicly for months, say the change will have little impact on the families who are hurting as a result of the new transportation rules that went into effect at the start of the school year.

The School Board voted Tuesday to change the much-debated transportation policy to allow students to be picked up each morning from as many as two bus stops throughout the week. The policy will continue to allow only one consistent afternoon bus stop.

The vote was 5-2, with School Board members Wayne D. Ridenour and Ruth Anne Callaham opposed. Both said they voted against the measure based on their support for a revised policy that would allow two morning and two afternoon bus stops.


A motion to provide two morning and two afternoon bus stops failed Tuesday, 5-2, with Ridenour and Callaham in favor.

The original policy was put in place before the start of the school year, and restricted students to one morning and one afternoon bus stop. Those stops could be different. The policy has been criticized by a small group of parents who say their custody and day care arrangements are in jeopardy because of its restrictions.

On Tuesday, the School Board also voted to review the revised policy in one year. That vote was 6-1, with Ridenour opposed. He said the vote was "unnecessary."

The board also voted to consolidate the current appeals process for those parents who are denied their transportation requests. When the new amendments to the policy go into effect, likely by Jan. 21 -- the start of the new school semester -- the appeals process will be reduced from four steps to three.

The board voted 7-0 in favor of that amendment.

Sharon Harrison, a grandparent of two children affected by the policy, said Tuesday's vote will have no impact on her family's situation. Allowing two morning bus stops is not the problem, she said.

Harrison and several others have advocated in favor of two morning and two afternoon bus stops.

Scott and Marcia Ridgeway are divorced parents of a 12-year-old student at Boonsboro Middle School. Both said that changes agreed upon Tuesday would not help their situation.

"My daughter has worried herself sick over this policy that she won't be able to spend the time with her father that she's used to spending," Marcia said.

Ridenour said the School Board has done a "disservice" to school system staff by taking the transportation vote at this time. He said that School Board President Roxanne R. Ober and Board Member Bernadette M. Wagner consistently have supported keeping the transportation policy as it is. On Tuesday, Wagner made the motion in support of two morning bus stops, saying it was "in the spirit of collaboration."

Ridenour said he has proposed that idea in the past.

Ridenour said that with two newly elected board members -- Justin M. Hartings and W. Edward Forrest -- coming on board in December, the dynamic of the seven-member board likely will change.

Ridenour referenced a forum for board candidates in which every one of the eight running for office said they do not support the current policy.

Harrison agreed with Ridenour, saying that new School Board members would have an impact on the decision and believed that new members would favor a plan for two morning and two afternoon bus stops.

Harrison said she plans to discuss changing the policy again at the School Board's next scheduled business meeting on Dec. 9.

The Washington County Board of Education voted 5-2 Tuesday in favor of changing a much-debated school bus transportation policy to allow two consistent morning bus stops. Only one consistent afternoon bus stop will continue to be allowed.

  • Board President Roxanne R. Ober -- Yes

  • Board Vice President Donna Brightman -- Yes

  • Paul W. Bailey -- Yes

  • Ruth Anne Callaham -- No

  • Wayne D. Ridenour -- No

  • William H. Staley -- Yes

  • Bernadette M. Wagner -- Yes

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