Few speak at hearing for two-tier busing

Published 11:39 am Saturday, May 27, 2017

Three people spoke at the first of two public hearings concerning the creation of a two-tier bus system for Southampton County Public Schools. The meeting took place in the high school auditorium, which is where the second one will be at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 7.

As reported extensively on May 10 [“Two-tier bus plan discussed], the issue is to consider whether to go to a new bus system as a way of increasing efficiencies in transportation. These include retaining existing drivers or attracting more who are qualified, as well as saving money in costs for bus maintenance.

Ricky Blunt, director of auxiliary services, which includes transportation, was present along with transportation coordinator Ruth Burch. Dr. Gwendolyn Shannon, superintendent, attended along with five other school board members.

Blunt explained the situation using a Power Point to outline the reasons for a two-tier system.

Currently, elementary and secondary schools in Southampton start at 8 a.m. and end at 3:15 p.m. Two examples were given for a proposed two-tier system in Southampton County with secondary schools beginning first. Tier 1: 7:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. for secondary; Tier 2: 8:45 a.m., 3:45 p.m. for elementary.

Or elementary schools starting first, Tier 1 at 7:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m.; Tier 2, 8:45 a.m., 3:45 p.m. for secondary.

Following Blunt’s presentation, the first speaker was Hillary Finch, a teacher at Capron Elementary. She asked what could be done to provide care of the children who arrive before classes begin.

“If we expand instructional time, that will be taking time and days away for personal appointments, such as doctors. We wouldn’t be able to scheduled them after school anymore,” said Finch, adding that the time with families in the afternoons and evenings could also be affected.

Further, she foresees issues with getting children up even earlier in the mornings to catch the first collection.

“What about bus breakdowns? Will there be backup vehicles available,” asked Finch.

Yamika Bennett of the Black Creek community said her concerns are similar to the first speaker.

Her children attend Riverdale Elementary, and she said that “6:30 a.m. is too early for my kindergarteners.” She knew that a multi-tier system has been used in Newport News where she grew up, but doesn’t know if the same could be said for Southampton County.

George Collins Jr. said he has two children both attending Meherrin Elementary, though that will be change in a few year as one will move on to the middle school.

“There’s a lot more to be considered than bus schedules such as before and after care,” he said, adding that the plan “looks really good at saving money, but I encourage you to talk to parents from Suffolk [which already uses a multi-tier system]. The majority of parents I’ve talked to don’t like it.”