NCSS to keep one Om­buds­man bus stop

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - DANIELLE EVER­SON de­v­er­son@cov­

Stu­dent trans­porta­tion to New­ton’s al­ter­na­tive school Om­buds­man is set to con­tinue this up­com­ing school year, but with only one bus stop lo­ca­tion and a bus mon­i­tor.

Af­ter much dis­cus­sion, the New­ton County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion rec­om­mended that New­ton County School Sys­tem of­fi­cials con­tinue pro­vid­ing trans­porta­tion to and from Om­buds­man, but with only one drop-off and pick-up lo­ca­tion for stu­dents rid­ing the bus to at­tend the school.

The BOE’s rec­om­men­da­tion came af­ter Craig Lock­hart, deputy su­per­in­ten­dent of schools, pre­sented a four-panel slide show de­tail­ing op­tions for the BOE.

School of­fi­cials have spent their last sev­eral meet­ings dis­cussing whether trans­porta­tion to and from the al­ter­na­tive school should be elim­i­nated due to in­frac­tions on the school bus.

Trans­porta­tion runs round-trip for all three Om­buds­man ses­sions, pick­ing up stu­dents for mid­dle-school and high­school ses­sions sev­eral times a day.

There cur­rently are four pick-up and drop-off bus stops for Om­buds- man stu­dents — the old Wal­mart at U.S. High­way 278, which av­er­ages 0 to 2 stu­dents; the Jack Neely Road stop, which av­er­ages 10 to 15 stu­dents; the park­ing lot at Al­covy High School, which av­er­ages 0 to 2 stu­dents; and Denny Dobbs Park at Ga. High­way 212, which av­er­ages 1 to 5 stu­dents per pick-up. Lock­hart said the av­er­ages are based on data from the past two years.

Pre­vi­ously, NCSS of­fi­cials said the es­ti­mated an­nual op­er­a­tional costs for pro­vid­ing trans­porta­tion for 43 Om­buds­man stu­dents was $113,731.20. How­ever, Lock­hart said when fac­tor­ing in ben­e­fits, the cost ac­tu­ally would be about $119,000.

Sev­eral op­tions for pro­vid­ing Om­buds­man trans­porta­tion were pre­sented to the BOE.

Lock­hart said one op­tion was to keep the routes the same and add a bus mon­i­tor with salary and ben­e­fits for $20,000, which would in­crease the Om­buds­man op­er­a­tional trans­porta­tion costs to about $139,000.

An­other op­tion he pre­sented was to keep the Jack Neely stop — which usu­ally is used by the most stu­dents — and elim­i­nate the Al­covy, old Wal­mart and Denny Dobbs bus stops. Lock­hart said this would give the school sys­tem a sav­ings of about $56,250, be­cause of the mileage saved. He said if the school sys­tem con­sol­i­dated the bus stops into one stop at Jack Neely Road and added a bus mon­i­tor, the sav­ings would be $36,250, with the salary and ben­e­fits for the bus mon­i­tor at $20,000.

An­other op­tion he pre­sented, which has led to many dis­cus­sions among BOE mem­bers, was to elim­i­nate Om­buds­man trans­porta­tion.

“Very few, if any, (Om­buds­man) cen­ters in Ge­or­gia pro­vide trans­porta­tion to stu­dents,” Lock­hart said. “In fact, Om­buds­man states that part of the suc­cess of the Om­buds­man plat­form is due to the fact that they are able to com­mu­ni­cate with par­ents ev­ery day if nec­es­sary when they pick up and drop off their chil­dren.”

School of­fi­cials have pre­vi­ously dis­cussed hav­ing a school re­source of­fi­cer mon­i­tor be­hav­ioral prob­lems re­lated to Om­buds­man trans­porta­tion. How­ever, Lock­hart ex­plained that in or­der to have a SRO, he/she would have to be ded­i­cated to the stops be­cause of the fre­quency of pick-ups and drop-offs, and that would cost the dis­trict about $50,000.

Af­ter dis­cus­sions, the BOE de­cided to keep the one stop at Jack Neely Road and add a bus mon­i­tor.

In ad­di­tion, BOE Chair Abi­gail Cog­gin re­quested that school of­fi­cials present monthly re­ports of dis­ci­pline prob­lems over the next year so that board mem­bers can de­cide later if any more ad­just­ments are war­ranted.

“We’re try­ing to be as fis­cally re­spon­si­ble as we can,” Cog­gin said.

Michael Barr, di­rec­tor of sup­port ser­vices for the NCSS, has pre­vi­ously dis­cussed us­ing ex­tra funds from Om­buds­man trans­porta­tion to help with trans­port­ing spe­cial-needs stu­dents. BOE mem­ber Jeff Meadors asked if $36,250 of sav­ings could as­sist in that depart­ment, which Barr agreed would help. Fund­ing for Om­buds­man trans­porta­tion was al­ready in the 201314 bud­get ap­proved by the BOE at its June com­bined meet­ing.

Of­fi­cials agreed to study Om­buds­man trans­porta­tion and bring it back up for dis­cus­sion dur­ing the next bud­get year.

Danielle Ever­son /The Cov­ing­ton News

The New­ton County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion rec­om­mended keep­ing one of the four bus stops to New­ton’s al­ter­na­tive school, Om­buds­man.

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