School board votes 3-2 to end preschool midday bus transportation

School board attorney Terry Geoghegan administers the oath of office to new board member Jeff Dickerson. Dickerson fills the vacant board seat for District 1.


Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 — The Nelson County Board of Education voted 3-2 Tuesday night to eliminate the midday bus transportation it has offered to students who attend the district’s preschool.

Eliminating the midday buses will save approximately $275,000, explained Tim Hockensmith, the district’s chief operating officer. There are currently 125 children transported each day who will lose their transportation beginning next year.

Ann Marie Williams, the district’s director of elementary schools, reviews the changes at the district’s preschool program at Tuesday night’s board meeting.

Right now, there are 293 3 and 4-year-olds enrolled at the Early Learning Center who attend either a morning or afternoon three-hour preschool session each day.

The midday buses take the morning preschool students home, and pickup afternoon preschool students. Sixty-eight students ride the bus home from the morning preschool, and 57 ride a bus to afternoon preschool.

The midday bus transportation requires 11 bus drivers and 18 bus monitors. The midday bus routes total about 500 miles a week.

The projected savings include $182,000 in salary and fringe benefits; $83,000 in bus fuel and parts; and $10,000 for the cost of substitutes.

PRESCHOOL IMPROVEMENTS. Other changes that were part of the proposal the board approved are aimed at improving the quality of the preschool program.

For example, the preschool calendar will increase from 137 days per school year to 150 days. The daily preschool sessions will be 15 minutes longer, which provides 75 minutes more instruction time teachers will have with students each week.

For those who pay preschool tuition, that cost will drop from $50 to $35 weekly. While the midday buses are eliminated, parents who take advantage of the childcare program will be able to have their children ride a bus home from childcare.

This slide presented at Tuesday’s board of education meeting details the district’s savings from elimination of the midday preschool bus transportation.

IMPACT ON PARENTS? Board members voiced appreciation at the changes to improve the quality of the childcare program, but questioned how the loss of midday transportation would impact the parents who depend on it.

Board chairman Damon Jackey said he had been contacted three weeks ago about someone concerned about the loss of the midday bus transportation. He said he was concerned about making a quick decision on a proposal that represented a substantial change.

“I’m trying to think through the what-ifs as a parent on this,” he said.

Board member Diane Breeding also questioned how the change will impact parents.

Jackey suggested delaying a vote on the changes in order to gauge the impact of the loss of the midday buses, and voiced concern that the change may prompt some parents to leave the county’s preschool program.

Breeding echoed Jackey’s concern for parents who may be caught in the middle.

Ann Marie Williams, the district’s director of elementary schools, said she hoped that parents who had used the midday transportation would opt for the childcare program with bus transportation provided in both the mornings and afternoons. Families who may struggle with the costs will have some options available to them for assistance, she said.

Jackey again suggested postponing a decision on the proposal. Board member Diane Berry made a motion to approve the changes.

Berry and board members Rebekah McGuire-Dye and Jeff Dickerson voted in favor of the changes. Board chair Damon Jackey and board member Diane Breeding cast “no” votes.

Donna Lewis, a district bus driver who drives the middday preschool route, addresses the board of education at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The changes will take effect with the 2018-19 academic year.

BUS DRIVER INPUT. During the board’s public comment period, Donna Lewis, one of the district’s bus drivers who currently drives the district’s preschool midday bus route, was critical of the way the board made its decision.

“The parents out here have no idea what’s about to happen,” she told the board.

She had heard rumors about the change and talked to some of the parents of the preschoolers she transports.

“They don’t want this to happen,” she said. “I know you passed it, but you’re about to lose a lot of kids.”

Parents of five students have told her they will move their students elsewhere, she told the board. She said the board may be in for a rude awakening due to the loss of a number of its preschool students.



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