More concerns expressed about two-tier plan

Published 10:35 am Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Several parents and one school bus driver spoke on Monday during the third public hearing for the proposed two-tier bus plan in Southampton County Public School system. All had questions, concerns and worries about the possible new transportation method.

Craig Gilmore, who said he grew up in Windsor, recalled that Isle of Wight County has that two-tier system.

“I’m a little worried and skeptical on logistics. Is there any other hope of attracting drivers,” he asked. “What has actually been done?”

George Collins, who had spoken at the previous hearings, said he had requested this meeting in the hope that more parents would attend.

“It’s a decent plan, but not a great plan,” he said, adding that he thinks there would be more maintenance needed for the 13 buses running the double routes.

During the research period done by Ricky Blunt and Ruth Burch, thirteen routes had been identified that could be doubled. Blunt is the director of auxiliary services and director of transportation; Burch is the coordinator of transportation. Both were again present at the hearing.

Collins continued to say that he thinks there will still be a need for after-school day care.

In addition to concern about children being picked up in the dark and cold in the winter months, he wondered if the school system offer some extra help for drivers. Maybe there are additional jobs they could do during the day, and that perhaps the board could check with local businesses.

Where inclement weather could be a factor, Collins said the board should be “more proactive,” and concluded that he hopes the members will “take all these things into consideration.”

Daniel Boone, who drives a bus, noted that his route was not on the list of doubling pickups — not all

buses would need to be two-tier, according to Blunt.

“The low wages is the reason we have a driver shortage,” Boone continued. “People cannot raise a family on what’s paid.”

Dr. Deborah Goodwyn, board chairwoman, later said the salary range is about $10 per hour.

He asked how many part-time jobs are available for bus drivers where they could earn extra income.

The issue of students who are disruptive on the bus was another topic, and he recalled two who were problems this past year. But, he felt he was not getting any support from administration.

“If the principal isn’t going to help me,” he said. “What can I do about it?”

Steven Bott of Sedley said he thinks that a projected 30-minute window from pickup to drop-off is “not realistic.”

Further, he said that the “average working man or woman is not getting home at mid-afternoon” to be there for their children.

Bott asked if the other bus drivers were consulted.

“You need to talk to them,” he said, and added that the word is not getting about these meetings.

Kathy Dunlow, who identified herself as a single parent with two children, said that their safety is a concern to her.

“We want them to be safe and educated,” she said, adding that the board has “got to have some answers” to the parents’ questions.

Dunlow also has a letter in today’s edition on Page A2.

Buck Bryant said he was concerned about he called minimal notification about the public hearings.

“I didn’t hear about the meeting through a school,” said Bryant, adding that perhaps the phone system is best way to communicate.

“You don’t really have enough consensus from the public to go forward with this,” Bryant said. “You don’t have enough public feedback. It’ll be a great disservice if this is the final meeting. Either you aren’t or you are going to do that program.”

Goodwyn said that the phone system is used for emergencies, and he replied that the steps that were taken were insufficient, calling for additional meetings.

The issue will again be on the agenda at the meeting on Monday, July 10, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Career Tech center, the Wigwam, located between the Southampton middle and high schools.