Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 23, 2018

Board hears about busing policy

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Aug 21, 2018
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo Fairfield facilities director Jeff Koontz, left, listens as transportation director Mark Branch discusses the school district’s transportation policies during Monday’s school board meeting.

Transportation director Mark Branch gave an update on busing policy Monday night to the Fairfield Community School Board of Directors.

Branch spoke about how students are expected to walk to school if they live within a certain distance. For example, elementary students are expected to walk if they live within a mile; middle school students within 2 miles; and high school students within 3 miles.

Students who live outside that radius are eligible to ride the bus. They are also eligible to ride the bus if their route to school does not have sidewalks, or if they must cross either Burlington Avenue or Highway 1.

“We don’t want the kids to cross major highways,” Branch said. “It’s not a requirement from the state, but it’s more peace of mind for me that I know a child is safe getting across that road.”

Branch said the district’s policy is more generous than the one required by the state, which says busing is awarded to both elementary and middle school students only if they live 2 miles from school. He said the board merely needs to update its written busing rules to reflect the district’s practices.

 

Bus pass

The district began a policy last year whereby students had to present a bus pass if they wanted to go somewhere other than their house. The bus pass was given to them in the office after their parents had notified the school.

Branch said the change was welcome. Before, a student could ride to a friend’s house without notifying anyone, leaving their parents in the lurch. When the parents called the school to inquire about their child’s whereabouts, there was no record of where they had done.

One problem the district noticed last year was students boarding buses they should not have, causing the buses to fill up, which required the district to use more of them. For instance, Branch discovered that a group of students was riding the bus from the middle school to the central hub at the high school so they could then take the bus to the Roosevelt Community Recreation Center. Branch said those students should have simply walked from the middle school to the rec center.

Not only that, but Branch discovered those students were then crossing Burlington Avenue at the rec center, even though there are bus stops north of Burlington at Lincoln School and Heritage Park.

Branch said the whole point of having so many bus stops throughout town is to prevent students from crossing busy streets like Burlington.

 

Wi-fi on buses?

Wireless internet could be coming to Fairfield buses in the near future. Branch said it will give students an opportunity to study since so much of their work can be done online.

Even if they’re not working, he hopes that giving them something to do will cause fewer disruptions.

“If I can give the students on the bus something else to pay attention to other than misbehavior, it’s a win,” he said. “I really believe wi-fi will cut down on write-ups and kids getting in trouble.”

Branch’s other goal is to put GPS on all the buses so parents can track their progress online.

 

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