The possibility of providing transportation for students in Richmond County’s alternative program has been pushed back another month.
The Richmond County Board of Education in December authorized staff to begin looking into the feasibility of busing the students from across the county to the downtown program.
Students suspended or expelled from their schools have to provide their own transportation to the program currently housed on Baker Avenue, and many are not able to attend because of the distance.
Representatives from juvenile court asked the board to consider paying for buses in December, saying it could significantly affect the success of its efforts to diminish juvenile crime.
The court got a $250,000 state grant this summer to pay for three therapists to do home therapy with about 20 at-risk youth and their families.
The grant is part of the Children in Need of Services program, a new classification created under Georgia’s new juvenile justice law to rehabilitate rather than detain youth who commit status offenses.
Juvenile Court Judge Pamela Doumar said many of the students in the CHINS program will also be in the alternative program, and they cannot be rehabilitated if they are not in school.
On Tuesday, board attorney Pete Fletcher said staff looked at running one bus to six or seven community centers across the county that could serve as hubs for pick-up.
The problem is that to complete that route, a bus would have to run as early as 5:30 a.m. and would not finish dropping students home until after 6 p.m.
The Department of Juvenile Justice has agreed to put probation officers on the bus and in the community centers to monitor the students, but Fletcher said they would not be able to work these hours.
“We’ve got to go back to the drawing board,” Fletcher said.
He said it would cost $6,000 to run the bus and that juvenile court has offered $3,000 in discretionary funds to pitch in.
He said the route might have to be scaled back to two or three stops throughout the county or target just students in the alternative program who are involved with juvenile court.
The difficulty arises because students enter and exit the alternative program at varying times throughout the year, which would constantly alter the bus route, Fletcher said.
“We’ve been having good conversations, but when you sit down with a pad and try to work out the logistics, with just one bus it’s pretty tough,” he said.