School board adjusts bus restrictions, allowing for day care drop off

School board adjusts bus restrictions, allowing for day care drop off

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After announcing tough transportation restrictions set to take affect Feb. 2, the Morgan County School Board of Education unanimously voted Tuesday to cut some slack for students who consistently need picked up or dropped off for child care. However, citing safety concerns, the district will no longer accept notes and other irregular requests. (See related story.) As discussed in their last meeting Dec. 2 and as announced in last weeks newspaper, the school board said students qualifying as regular bus route riders could only be picked up and dropped off at their qualifying address, which many interpreted as only the bus stop assigned to their home address. This new restriction also cut nonqualified ridersîor those with home addresses within a 1.5-mile (elementary school) and 2-mile radius (secondary) from the schoolîoff from bus transportation unless approved by the district transportation department. After facing a standing-room only crowd, the board voted to continue allowing students with day care arrangements to be picked up and dropped off at an address different from their home residence until the end of the school year, as long as parents put that request in writing. If there is a permanent pick-up and drop-off point registered with the transportation department, we will accommodate that, Board Vice President Mark Farmer said. Give parents the choice to choose the stop, resident Traca Wardell pleaded with the board before their decision. Resident Laura Newton, who has worked at five different licensed day cares in the last 15 years outside of Morgan, said she has never heard of a situation where buses cant drop off students at a child care. She also mentioned that assigning each student only one drop off/pick up location could lead to legal trouble involving protective orders and divorced parents. Most all districts in the state allow for flexibility for children to be dropped off somewhere other than home, said Newton, who said she spoke with Murrell Martin, the pupil transportation specialist at the Utah State Office of Education. Newton said the boards initial decision was politically driven, meant to put financial pressure on the public who didnt pass the levy in June of 2013. Superintendent Doug Jacobs and others on the school board denied the accusation, saying the decision was motivated by students safety. This was never a political idea. I take offense to that, said Board Member Neil Carrigan. In my mind it was to keep your kids safe and help the bus drivers. Board members and the district transportation supervisor said they intend to keep a list of allowed pick up and drop off locations for all students if they vary from their home address. Mountain Green Principal Heidi Andreasen said her school keeps a list of day care providers assigned to students in the office and could easily plug that information into the Aspire student information system. In the meantime, the school board will be studying and considering exactly what kind of a policy they would like to put in place by next school year for students with day care and busing needs. It will give us an opportunity to vet some issues that have been brought to our attention, Jacobs said. They will be considering how to handle the transportation of students whose home address does not qualify for busing, but whose day care facility address does. Another consideration is how to define and validate what qualifies as day care. One mother, Ashlie Shiffman, cautioned school board members that parents may simply change their home address on school records to reflect their day care address instead. Board President Ken Durrant said he wants to make sure the transportation policy as it relates to day care is fair, meaning that the district doesnt subsidize transportation to area schools for one facility while requiring another facility to figure out their own mode of transportation. We will wrestle with consistency and fairness, said Durrant, who intends to put the item on the June board meeting agenda. Angi Carrigan, one of eight residents who spoke up during the public comment portion of the meeting, said the district did not give parents and child care providers enough time to figure out logistics due to the new limitations. She said some day care providers were faced with having to obtain a vehicle and insurance with only three weeks notice. It looks hasty on your part, resident Michelle Warner told the school board. That is not enough time to make transportation arrangements, Angi Carrigan said. Nor is it enough time to make financial arrangements, others said. If I now have to add into my budget the additional cost to make sure my kid gets to school, it will come at a great financial cost to me, said Louize Smith. Since she must take one child to schooling in Davis County due to a lack of facilities in Morgan, she relies on day care arrangements to get her other children to and from school in Morgan. The biggest thing that is hard to understand is why change in the middle of the year? said Angi Carrigan, who has children attending Morgan Elementary School. While only eight residents spoke to the issue at Tuesdays meeting, the audience was standing room only. Board Member Jody Hipwell, who admitted she asked the board at its last meeting in December to make the policy change as quickly as possible, said she was surprised the board hadnt received more complaints. We appreciate you coming in and (voicing) your concerns, Hipwell told the crowd. Sometimes it is hard to get out and hear all of you. We didnt see these things coming, Neil Carrigan said. Sometimes you dont see what is coming until it hits you between the eyes. Many parents who asked for a change are pleased with the boards recent decision to continue allowing pick up and drop off at day care at least through the end of the school year. If the school board hadnt made allowances for day care, Angi Carrigan said the daily traffic congestion after school would likely have gotten worse and justified an adult to control traffic. Its a mad house already, and now you are going to have more parents or grandparents over their picking up their kids, she said. You may have more kids trying to move out in front of a moving vehicle. You may be causing safety issues. Resident Ashley Schiffman said the elementary schools preschool enrollment may drop if the district does not allow buses to pick up and drop off preschoolers at a day care location. Warner said she has spoken with parents who would agree to pay a reasonable transportation fee if their children were otherwise ineligible to ride the bus.

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