TENNERTON— Several bus drivers spoke before the Upshur County Board of Education earlier this week to address their concerns over what they believe is an unsafe practice in allowing private vehicle transports of students to out-of-town school activities.
Because of a shortage of bus drivers during the last school year board members revised policy 9004 and allow parents to transport their students for extra-curricular activities.
However, though a recruitment program for drivers and substitute drivers, there is no longer a bus driver shortage. The system actually has all positions filled plus three substitute drivers in place currently.
With the addition of drivers, driver representatives appeared before the board advising they would like the extra-curricular contracts to be returned to the drivers as a matter of safety and financial advancement for drivers, especially subs.
Chase Woody did the majority of speaking for the drivers noting a number of issues at hand concerning the issue of extra-curricular contracts, including safety, communication as well as their appreciation of the board’s assistance in filling the vacant positions.
“We have had numerous trips go out on Saturdays and holidays when we have many drivers available and they are self-transport,” Woody said. “Numerous reports and statistics state that school buses are the safest form of transport. I speak for everyone at the bus garage that we are concerned about this.”
Woody also noted that while drivers have had much training and must submit to a variety of tests and regulations, the same could not be said for parents or other civilians transporting students to events in a private vehicle.
“We put a lot of time and effort into our county drivers,” he said. “We are highly trained. We have went through state certification, CDL training, CPR and first aid, background checks, random drug tests. We are some of the better ones on the road.”
“Our concern at the bus garage is can’t verify what parents are doing,” Woody said.
As part of the communication issues he feels are an issue he noted there were trips that could be scheduled with a driver, but those trips aren’t getting to the bus garage in time to schedule.
Woody said the non-scheduling of extra-curricular trips could also be considered discriminatory against students who can’t self-transport or their parents weren’t comfortable sending their kids in a private transport to an event or activity.
“Many kids who were in sports last year aren’t this year because their parents don’t have the resources to transport their kids, or don’t trust others to transport them privately.”
Woody said they would like a review of the policy.
Upshur County Board of Education President Tammy Samples was quick to point out that no one mentioned any names related to issues or concerns pertaining to the issue.
“The policy changed when we didn’t have enough bus drivers,” Samples said.
“I agree with that decision, but I would like the school bus to be the first option.”
After a discussion of the matter, Samples agreed a committee could be assembled to look at the policy once again.
According to Samples, before any changes could be made there would have to be public hearings and a board vote.
“Policy change takes a committee, public hearings, and public comments,” Samples said. “I am going to ask Dr. Stankus to form a committee and talk about this.”