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More students taking buses

With gas prices remaining high and unpredictable, many students in Butler County are having to find a new way of transportation to and from school: the school bus.

Although there has been a dip in gas prices recently, many parents are finding it cheaper to send their children to and from school on the bus.

Mike Looney, Butler County School System Superintendent, said the number of students riding the bus this year is 2,150, up from 2,048 students last year.

Other school systems like Cullman and Tuscaloosa have also reported an increase in the number of students riding the bus so far this year.

More students riding the buses has meant more congestion on the buses and on the roads, something Looney said the county is looking into.

&#8220We have several key staff members that are working on the problem right now,” Looney said. &#8220What we're doing is analyzing every route we run.”

Looney said the county is focusing on making sure buses are not doubling up and running routes that coincide with another bus' route.

One of the main reasons Looney said the county must look at the current bus situation is because the county has been operating on a $75,000 fuel budget, which is far short of the $126,000 the county has currently spent on bus fuel for this fiscal year.

Wayne Boswell, the Butler County Schools' Administrative Assistant for Operations, has been in the system for 36 years and said he has seen the number of students, along with the gas prices, rise over the last five years.

Boswell also said there wasn't a problem with fuel prices after buses changed from unleaded fuel to diesel fuel in 1990, but with diesel prices soaring over unleaded prices in recent years, the change has affected the fuel budget.

&#8220The state, at times, has not provided us with adequate funds for our fuel budget,” Boswell said. &#8220We hope, with the increase in students riding, that will not be the case this year.”

Beyond looking at the routes, Looney also said the County was looking into such things as a Global Positioning System for the buses, although a GPS may not be financially feasible.

&#8220(GPS) would be extremely helpful, but it may not be financially possible,” Looney said. &#8220But we will be getting our estimates for the (GPS) sometime next week.”

Looney said the main problem with the buses being overcrowding has come from Greenville, which the County must make adjustments for since the system is losing students at the south end of the county.

&#8220The bottom line is we're going to have to try and run more efficient routes,” Looney said.