Originally created 04/28/00

On school bus reforms

School buses are front-burner issues for both the Richmond County and Columbia County boards of education.

In Richmond County, the trustees' advisory panel will recommend approval for a bus notification system that would be a valuable new service.

The BUSPAL proposal, as described by SMARTEL Labs, Inc., would electronically signal parents and students when a school bus is approaching the neighborhood bus stop.

This service is all about convenience. Kids wouldn't have to wait outside for the bus -- a special plus when the weather's bad; and also for parents of elementary school students who often wait at the stop with their children.

The advisory panel finds the plan cost-efficient and we think the board should, too. The $110 cost per bus to install a transmitter system does not appear prohibitive. But before going ahead with the installations, trustees need to survey parents to see if they're willing to pay. The proposal calls for households that want the convenience to put up $99 for the BUSPAL notifier and $30 a year for the service. If the demand isn't there, scrap the plan.

In Columbia County, School Superintendent Tommy Price says the school system could save $1 million by revamping the bus schedule from three-track to two-track; in other words, having two daily starting and ending times instead of three.

The downside is that the efficiency would reduce bus drivers' driving time -- and, therefore, their incomes. That's unfortunate, but it may very well be the price which must be paid to improve taxpayer-funded productivity.

Bus drivers are hired to serve the school system, not the other way around. For schools to pay for driving time that's not needed would be feather-bedding, a disservice to the working public.

Most importantly, the $1 million in savings could go where it's most needed: in classrooms. The school board would be foolish not to support Price's recommendation.


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