Columbia County School Superintendent Tommy Price, responding to parents' outcries for improved bus safety, presented a plan Tuesday that focuses on training.
The bus safety plan was developed from recommendations of two bus safety experts called in to review the system's safety practices in the wake of a Jan. 9 bus accident that killed kindergartner Aleana Johnson.
"Quite frankly, when they left they were very complimentary," Mr. Price told the board. "We do have a good, solid transportation program."
Also Tuesday, the school board gave preliminary approval to a parent-recommended rezoning plan that would relocate some South Columbia pupils to Stevens Creek to relieve overcrowding primarily caused by pupil/teacher ratios mandated by the Education Reform Act.
Aleana's mother, Christy Johnson, attended the school board meeting, sitting in the front row with an 8-by-10-inch picture of Aleana in her lap that faced the board. She did not address the board.
The school bus safety plan outlines six areas of improvement, including systematic training of drivers, students and parents; better training on the EduLog routing system; bus maintenance and repair (improved fleet-maintenance and fuel-monitoring systems and pretrip inspections with immediate reporting of bus defects); and the development of a driver handbook.
But the plan did not address bus monitors, which is one of the primary goals of the white ribbon campaign, a grass-roots effort to change state laws to require bus monitors.
"Their position was that monitors are needed to address discipline problems, not to address safety," Mr. Price said. "I know off the cuff it sounds like monitors may be a good idea, but there's research that shows that when drivers and students are dependent upon another that it's not safer."
As for the rezoning plan, the board approved a plan to change elementary school districts to relieve overcrowding at Evans, South Columbia and Blue Ridge elementary schools.
To relieve overcrowding at Evans Elementary School, 64 pupils in the Blanchard Road area would be moved out of that school and into Greenbrier Elementary.
To relieve overcrowding at South Columbia, 91 pupils from the Furys Ferry Road and Baston Road areas, including The Pass and Wexford subdivisions, would be moved to Stevens Creek. The English as a Second Language Program at South Columbia would also be moved.
Future growth at Blue Ridge would be checked by moving the 25 children from The Village and The Summit at Jones Creek and those along Industrial Boulevard and Furys Ferry from Blue Ridge to Stevens Creek.
Construction is now under way at Greenbrier and Stevens Creek elementary schools on 12 new classrooms to accommodate the extra pupils.
Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 113.