Buses may stop less

Published 11:59 pm Monday, April 20, 2009

Andalusia City Schools transportation director Bob Harry suggested at Monday’s meeting of the Andalusia Board of Education that changes are needed for next year’s bus service, including the elimination of many stops on routes.

“We base all of our transportation decisions on safety, efficiency and economy,” Harry said. “Our transportation is very safe, but at this point in time it is not very efficient and not very economical.”

Harry said that state law makes no regulation regarding the location and frequency of bus stops, but does provide several suggestions. Among those suggestions are that school systems establish a minimum distance between stops — usually between one-tenth or two-tenths of a mile.

Harry said the new bus routes would follow those guidelines, but feature fewer stops, with most of those stops located at street corners.

“We have one bus that currently makes about 53 stops,” he said. “I have gone out and ridden the route and have determined that we can probably cut it down to 25 stops. It’s not only more efficient, but it can actually be safer because it cuts down on the number of times the buses have to stop and impede traffic.”

Board member Joe Nix asked Harry if the public would be allowed an opportunity to comment on the proposed changes. The board decided that it would provide an opportunity for a public hearing at a later date, if requested by parents.

“We send this letter out every year informing parents about our bus system and the guidelines,” ACS Superintendent Dr. Beverly McAnulty said after the meeting. “But this time, we will provide the opportunity for public comment.”

The ACS has been providing bus service for five years without any major changes, and Harry said he knows there will be some complaints if the number of stops are reduced.

“I’m going to be looking at every stop and determine that it is a safe stop,” he said. “We want to partner with the parents here and work with them. I know that parents think about convenience, but I’ve got to think about safety.”

McAnulty added that this is a perfect time to make such changes, because of the poor economy and proration that will affect public school transportation in the coming years.

“There are a lot of systems that are dropping routes all together and releasing drivers,” she said. “We do not want to do that. These stops will never be more than two blocks away from a house, and we are trying very hard to put them at corners for convenience.”

Harry added that routes will be examined on a case-by-case basis and that some streets may feature more frequent stops than others. This caused board member Joe Nix to question the proposed changes’ equality.

“I just think there needs to be equity,” he said. “Parents will ask, ‘Well, the bus stops on that road a lot more than on our road,’ and we need to give the public an opportunity to address those concerns. Also, I have some strange vibes about having congregations of students unsupervised in the morning at these stops.”

Nix requested the opportunity for a public hearing on the matter, a request that was granted by the board.

“Even if nobody shows up, I’d still feel better just knowing the public had a chance to speak,” he said.

In other business, the board:

Approved a leave of absence request for AES kindergarten teacher Shae Page, effective April 10, through May 4, 2009.

Accepted the resignations of Carolyn Johnson, cafeteria manager at AHS, and Amy Spurlin, media specialist at AHS, effective May 29, 2009.

The next meeting of the Andalusia Board of Education will be Tues., May 19, at 6 p.m.