School Board alters bus policy

December 09, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Board of Education voted Tuesday to change its much-debated transportation policy for the second time in a month.

The board voted 4-3 to allow for two afternoon bus stops.

That decision marked the third change to school bus transportation guidelines in Washington County since May, and was a relief to a small group of parents who have advocated for a more-flexible policy for months.

The policy, which was altered earlier this year to restrict students to only one bus stop in the morning and one in the afternoon, was changed in November to allow a second stop in the morning. At that time, board members decided to continue to allow one stop in the afternoon.

Board Members Donna Brightman, Paul W. Bailey and William H. Staley voted against the decision to allow more flexibility within the policy Tuesday.


Parent impact

Colleen Winters, a parent of a Clear Spring High School freshman, said she lost her job in part because of the more-restrictive transportation rules. Winters has shared custody of her daughter, and said that because only one morning and one afternoon bus stop were allowed, she was forced to transport her daughter to and from school some days.

That means time lost at work, and last week she was let go from her job as a salesperson, she said.

School Board President Wayne D. Ridenour said he hopes the changes will be implemented by the start of the next semester.

"I'm just thrilled that common sense prevailed," Winters said.

Sharon Harrison, a grandparent of a child affected by the transportation rules, said the board's decision Tuesday would relieve a lot of pressure on families who say their custody agreements, jobs and daycare arrangements were jeopardized by the earlier decision.

Added cost

Tom Janus, a Hagerstown resident who has run previously for a seat on the School Board, said Tuesday that the previous policy that allowed for only one morning and one afternoon bus stop did the "greatest good for the greatest number," and questioned whether allowing more bus stops might result in additional costs for the school system.

"I do think this is going to end up costing the county money," Brightman said of Tuesday's decision.

She said that allowing only one consistent bus stop in the morning and one in the afternoon was the safest solution for students.

Board Member Justin M. Hartings said that while he agreed with what the core of the board did before his election Nov. 4 in eliminating much of the daily transportation changes that occur, the policy did need added flexibility.

W. Edward Forrest, who also was not on the board when the original change was made, said Tuesday that he had some concerns about the development of the policy.

"I do not understand the logic of allowing two morning stops and one afternoon stop," he said. "It seems to be ... it's just not logical."

Agenda setting

Before the transportation policy was amended, Brightman made a motion to strike the topic from the agenda, saying that the typical process to place an item on the board's agenda was not followed.

She said a committee typically decides what topics will be discussed during the meeting. In this case, Ridenour requested that Shulamit Finkelstein, executive assistant for Strategic Planning, Board and Community Relations for Washington County Public Schools, place the transportation discussion on the agenda.

Ridenour said he made that decision to allow the public to have prior notice that the policy was up for discussion and said it was not in violation of parliamentary procedure.

The motion to strike the topic from the agenda was defeated, 5-2. Brightman and Staley were the only two in favor.

How they voted

The Washington County Board of Education voted Tuesday to change its transportation policy to allow two consistent afternoon bus stops for students.

President Wayne D. Ridenour - Yes

Vice President Ruth Anne Callaham - Yes

Paul W. Bailey - No

Donna Brightman - No

W. Edward Forrest - Yes

Justin M. Hartings - Yes

William H. Staley - No

The Herald-Mail Articles