9/17/11 No change in school bus policy

School buses depart Newlin Elementary in Burlington on Friday afternoon.

Sam Roberts / Times-News   

School buses depart Newlin Elementary in Burlington on Friday afternoon.

No change in school bus policy
Board keeps rule that prohibits drop-off at day cares
By Mike Wilder The Times-News 9/17/11     
Reprinted with permission.

   The Alamance-Burlington Board of Education won’t reverse a change it made last year to a policy that affects school bus transportation.


   Approved by the school board in the summer of 2010, the change means students can no longer be dropped off at a day care rather than their homes unless the business is on the same route.

   Board member Tony Rose had asked that the school board reconsider the policy. He said he’s been told by residents that some children are at home by themselves after school as a result of the change.

   The most vocal, consistent opponent of the policy change has been Beverly Kerr, the owner of Storybook Farm day care south of Graham. She’s said not providing its own transportation, as some day cares do, has allowed it to serve families by keeping costs low.

   Kerr and parents affected by the new policy have asked that the board consider reversing its decision. Rose’s request prompted a discussion among board members during a Monday work session.

   No other board member supported changing the policy, but Al Smith, the system’s transportation director, said parents can ask for exceptions in hardship cases.

   Through school system spokeswoman Jenny Faulkner, he said after the meeting there is a caseby-case review available for “extreme” hardship cases. Smith said those requests will be considered when made through a principal or another administrator at a school. He said requests for students to be dropped off somewhere other than their home are considered based on factors such as having enough space on the bus the student would ride.

   Through Faulkner, he indicated not many waivers have been approved and that exceptions have allowed students to be dropped off at the homes of relatives other than parents. Smith said the procedure through which parents can request an exception was developed at the request of the school board.

   Rose encouraged schools in the system to do as much as possible to let parents know there’s a process they can use to request that their child be dropped off somewhere other than the home address, while reiterating that his preference would be for more overall flexibility for parents.

   Other board members said they don’t want to return to the practice of taking students by school bus to day cares.

   Rose questioned if it might not be cheaper and more convenient in some cases to have several students dropped off at a day care instead of multiple stops at different homes.

   Besides situations of children being home by themselves after school, he said the school board has seen a significant increase in transfer requests for child care reasons.

   Instead of focusing on the issue of providing transportation that benefits some day cares, he suggested the question should be “what is best for the parents and students?”

   Before the school board changed the policy last year, discussion included concern that additional day cares might request transportation by school bus after realizing others were receiving it.

   Rose wasn’t on the board when the policy was changed.

   Among those who were, Mary Erwin voted against the change largely because she thought people needed more time to adjust before the start of the 2010-11 school year.

   “I don’t want to get back into that business,” board member Patsy Simpson said this week about sending buses to day cares.

   Erwin agreed, ”I think we’re better off making exceptions like we’re doing now.”