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Bus woes not caused by school board, but by state law

After the Colletonian received complaints concerning bus regulations and the dangers of children having to walk to school on dangerous roadways, good reasons were given for the enforcement of these regulations at the September 18 Colleton County Board of Education meeting.

Just after the school year started, a caller reported that his children were being made to walk to Bells Elementary School on a portion of Bells Highway. Had added, in his belief, that walk was putting his children in danger.

At the recent board meeting, South Carolina Department of Education Regional Transportation Manager Wayne Eadon explained that strict state guidelines must be followed when it comes to bussing students to school. He added that, if these guidelines are not followed and the district decides to provide Hazardous Condition Transportation services, it will be done 100 percent at the school district’s expense.

“State laws govern both bus routing and transportation,” Eadon said. He noted that, in the 2010-11, our county faced fines totaling $32,333.84 in connection with violations. Eadon noted that, this past fiscal year, the fines totaled $8,739, which was significantly less. “This was a tremendous reduction,” he added.

Eadon said that state law mandates that students less than 2/10 of a mile from one another cannot be picked up on a door-to-door basis. If this were done, the school system would be fines. Board member Paul Haase asked whether hazardous walking conditions along roadways could be factored into the equation when dealing with this issue. “No matter what, you will still pay for a violation,” said Eadon.

If a student lives 3/10 of a mile off of a main bus route, he or she has to walk out to a stop on the main route. And if students live less than a mile-and-a-half from any school, the bus will not pick them up. “It’s unreal what the violations of these rules are costing,” Eadon told board members.   

Eadon said that the busses are kept at the Colleton County Middle School on Tuskegee Airmen Drive near Walterboro. Drivers have to come to the school to pick them up and drop them back off at CCMS after they have run their routes. No drivers take their bus home and keeps them overnight, he added.

Board member William Bowman asked whether current bus drivers understand the penalties involved when they make an illegal stop. “They do this year,” Colleton County School District Transportation Coordinator Arthur Mayes, who also attended the meeting, responded. Eadon also noted that Mayes has been a very good job of running the day-to-day operations since being hired in November.

Eadon also noted that the county’s school bus shop has been vigilant in their operations in keeping the vehicles both safe and on the road. He added that 10 busses are still on the road after being originally being manufactured in 1988.

Eadon also noted a bus overcrowding issue early on in the school year has since been resolved.

Superintendant of Schools Leila Williams praised both Eadon and Mayes, and also noted the two are saving the county money.