Posted: Wednesday, August 28th 2013 at 11:07am
Habersham elementary parents facing changes in afternoon school bus procedures
By Rob Moore Editor
MT. AIRY - Parents of all Habersham County elementary school students should expect a letter Wednesday explaining a transportation procedural change.
Effective Tuesday, Sept. 3, the Habersham County School System is requiring all parents and guardians of pre-k through third-grade students to make arrangements for those students to be met by an adult at the afternoon bus stop. Alternatively, the child can be accompanied by a middle school or high school-aged sibling.
The administrative procedure change is to increase safety and is in accordance with Georgia Division of Family and Children Services guidelines on the proper age for children to be left unattended.
Earlier this school year, a kindergarten student was dropped off at the wrong address, but system officials said the change has been coming for some time.
"This is not just a knee-jerk reaction to one incident," said Superintendent Matthew Cooper.
He said system officials polled other systems in the area before determining how the change would be implemented.
"We wanted to be reasonable about this, but let's protect our students," Cooper said.
One change that will affect some families is that third- and fourth-grade students will not qualify to accompany a younger student in place of an adult, middle school or high school student.
"Fourth and fifth graders cannot babysit a child," Cooper said, citing DFCS policy.
All parents in the school system will receive the letter, but parents of pre-k through through third-grade students -- whether or not they routinely ride a bus -- must sign and return the form to their child's school this week.
"When it comes to safety, this is something we feel like we have to do," Cooper said. "I don't think any parent will have a problem with us protecting their child. Our parents are great. We'll get most of these letters back. They work very well with our teachers and principals."
Pupil Transportation Director Tim Dockery said system officials will meet with the 90 daily bus drivers, as well as the substitute drivers, Wednesday and Thursday to ensure they all are clear on the new guidelines.
Board Vice Chairman Robert Barron, who drove a school bus in the system for 36 years, said he believes drivers will be receptive.
"I think that there's going to have to be an adjustment," Barron said. "I know they'll do it. I know there's not a single driver that's not going to take care of their passengers and make sure they're home."
The county's 90 drivers cover an average of 6,000 miles per day, transporting 3,000-4,000 students.
"I think this is a great thing," said Board Member Rick Williams.
No vote was required by the board since this procedural change does not involve policy.
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