|Bus stop safety laid at feet of parents|
|The Press - News|
|Written by Kelley Lannigan|
|Thursday, 27 October 2011 09:43|
The school district has a message for parents who may be concerned about the safety of their children at school bus stops — become more involved in your child’s safety.
“I say this with respect, but the safety of children from their doorstep to the bus stop is the responsibility of the parents,” said Johnnie Jacobs, the school district’s transportation director. “The locations of stops are made as convenient and in as safe a place as can be determined given all the mitigating factors involved.”
Parents have sounded-off on The Press’ Facebook page recently about potential hazards for children at bus stops, including the distance they must travel from their homes to stops, adverse weather conditions and the locations of stops on well-trafficked roads shrouded in the early morning darkness.
The lack of lighting at some stops has come to the attention of the City of Macclenny.Roger Yarbrough, assistant city manager, is asking for input from parents about the most poorly-lit stops. He says the city is in the process of trying to identify those locations.
“We would like to address this issue and hopefully find a way to improve the lighting in those areas for the students waiting for the bus. Anyone who can help us identify problem areas can call our office at 259-0968,” he said.
Parents have also been wondering why school buses enter some subdivisions but not others.
Mr. Jacobs said a number of factors determine the bus routes, schedules and location of stops, including time constraints, funding and simple logistics, all of which can prohibit buses from picking up students individually or allowing them to enter some residential areas at all.
Variables like road conditions, bridge locations and the maximum number of students a bus can safely transport factor into decisions about routes and stops.
“Who wouldn’t want a situation in which the bus stops at each and every house for each and every child?” said Mr. Jacobs. “I would want that myself. Unfortunately that isn’t possible.”
Mr. Jacobs cited the operating budget as the major constraint when mapping bus routes and stops.
Fuel costs dictate the length of bus routes, so keeping routes brief and limiting stops as much as possible help combat excessive fuel costs, he said.
Time is also an issue and dictates the routes, its length and the number of stops.
“Students must arrive at schools in a timely manner and that window of time is narrow,” said Mr. Jacobs.
Adding additional stops or turns can add significant time to a bus route. Designating a centralized stop for one area and having students gather there to catch a bus, especially in rural areas and at subdivisions, helps manage the time frames for routes.
“Keeping bus routes as brief as possible is necessary,” added David Davis, the school district’s director of curriculum.
“The state places a minimum amount of ‘instructional minutes’ students must receive at school and those requirements must be met,” he said. “Even the time it takes to load and unload students to and from buses must be factored in so keeping routes and time schedules as concise as possible is important.
“There is a ripple effect. If a bus is late or its route were to be lengthened, students who rely on the school breakfast program would be impacted as well as the schedules of the cafeteria workers. Everything effects everything else,” he said.
So how are routes and stops designated?
“The first thing determined is if the entire route is along safe roads and if a centralized stop is in the safest most convenient place,” said Mr. Jacobs.
State and federal guidelines dictate that school buses are only operated on main roads and county maintained roads. Negotiating the terrain on privately maintained roads can pose many problems, so they are generally not included in routes.
The current policy that governs routes and school bus operation was adopted in the mid 1990s.
Buses already running routes into the Copper Creek and Macclenny II subdivisions north and south of the city at that time remain in place. They generally do not enter subdivisions built after that time with some exceptions, Mr. Jacobs explained.
Buses only enter Copper Creek a limited distance. Other subdivisions must be entered to pick up handicap students without other transportation options.
Whether the bus can negotiate the area must be considered, too. Can it turn around? Is there accessibility to the specific address?
“Zipping in and out of an area or even turning around in the street is not a big deal for a person in their Toyota Corolla,” said Mr. Jacobs. “But a school bus is completely different. The way people park their cars on the street can determine if a driver can negotiate a corner, turn the bus around or even access its destination at all.”
He says some people complain the buses stop too often. “They may not be seeing the bigger picture,” he said.
Part of that picture is the presence of registered sex offenders. Frequent stops are a way to help prevent children from needing to pass such residences or gather near them for extended periods of time, explained Mr. Jacobs.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 27 October 2011 13:21|