published Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Whitfield schools eliminating some bus routes

by Kelli Gauthier
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DALTON, Ga. — Some Whitfield County students will walk farther than their driveways to catch the bus this fall as the district does away with countywide door-to-door transportation.

“When you start providing services above and beyond, the problem is when you take those services away,” Superintendent Danny Hayes said Monday during a Whitfield County Board of Education meeting. “We’re kind of offering a valet service rather than a city transit system.”

For several years, district officials have been studying ways to make their transportation system more efficient. Richard Schoen, Whitfield County’s assistant superintendent of operations, said his department recently consolidated bus routes and eliminated three routes for an annual savings of $60,000 to $75,000.

He estimated the district can eliminate up to seven more routes by August.

“When you go to group [bus] stops, you get more efficient, and when you’re more efficient, you eliminate routes; when you eliminate routes, you save money,” Schoen said.

While bus drivers still will pick up some students in front of their houses, others may have to walk to the end of a street to catch the bus.

Board Chairman Louis Fordham said that, in his neighborhood, students waiting in their driveways for the bus are so close they can talk to each other, yet the bus stops at each house.

Schoen said changing the bus routes does not require board approval, but he wanted board members to be prepared when they hear from parents concerned about changes.

Fordham said he wanted to “applaud the effort” for more efficient transportation, and he hoped Schoen would use common sense when eliminating routes. Several board members emphasized that keeping students from walking too far and keeping them out of dangerous situations was more important than saving money on transportation.

During Monday’s meeting, the school board also approved its $117 million budget for fiscal year 2012. The budget includes about $4.7 million for student transportation.

about Kelli Gauthier...

Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...

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