by Mary Kay Morrow • JC Advocate
The Ruskin bus transfers that have led to student fighting and headaches for kids, teachers, administrators, parents, bus drivers, and neighbors will be a thing of the past next year.
Parent Karen Bushman told board members at their March meeting that her main concern is the fighting that has taken place at Ruskin during the transfers.
“It’s a chaotic mess over there,” Bushman said.
“It looks like a demilitarized zone when school lets out and it’s having a negative affect on the neighborhood,” said Ruskin neighborhood community liaison Jerry Mitchell who asked the board to re-examine the situation.
After two years utilizing the bus transfer system, the district has decided it’s not working.
“The single biggest complaint I’ve heard is about the conglomeration at Ruskin,” Board Member Dan Osman said at the May 17 board meeting.
Associate Superintendent of Business Mitch Nutterfield announced that the bus transfer will be eliminated beginning with the 2012-13 school year.
Hickman Mills Junior High students and Ruskin students will be transported directly to/from home and their respective schools and will not ride buses together.
The change will require 10-minute bell modifications at Ruskin High School, Smith-Hale, and the early elementary schools. The new bell times are outlined on the district’s website.
Administrators do not expect the changes to affect trans-portation funding significantly.
Bus overcrowding and bus driver absences have added to the problems.
“We have found that the number of children in a small location has led to altercations,” said Nutterfield.
He outlined other measures administrators may try in addition to eliminating transfers such as increasing teacher monitors, installing front- and back-of-bus cameras on all buses, and using seating charts. Nutterfield said the district’s goal is to make all children safe.
“Bus trouble translates to school trouble,” he said.
Durham Bus Representatives Daryl Huddleston and Scott Bryant were on hand to answer board questions.
The standard number of children per school bus is 35 to 40.
Children who live less than a half a mile from their school walk to school.
The district has 20 bus monitors including six police officers.
Durham continues to recruit and train drivers to ease overcrowding.
Board Member Eric Lowe caused an audience stir when he asked Durham representatives about the cost to the district when absent drivers have caused children to double up on buses.
“Are we still paying for buses that we aren’t getting… or are we being reimbursed when kids are forced to double up?” Lowe asked. “How much have you all (Durham) saved from doubling up? Are we going to work towards remediating that problem of our paying for buses we haven’t received?”
Huddleston and Bryant indicated they have not reimbursed the district in those instances. Lowe asked that the cost of buses vs. the bus service received be added to a future agenda for further board discussion.
The next regular Hickman Mills board meeting will be on Thursday, June 21 at 7pm in the Administration Center.