Public meeting held to discuss proposed consolidated bus stops

Public meeting held to discuss proposed consolidated bus stops

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Chances are if your child goes to a specialty or charter school in Chatham County, you will be changing the way they get to school next year.

The majority of the school board is seeing dollar signs, millions saved if it consolidates dozens of bus stops into just a few.

Before that decision is made, the board is looking for your opinion.

A public meeting was held by school officials at Haven Elementary School in Savannah Wednesday night.

The school board estimates about $1.8 million could be saved by consolidating bus stops.

Some parents are not happy with the proposal and the school board welcomes feedback.

"But we have to find a way to be more efficient and effective as to how we deliver those services," said SCCPSS Chief of Facilities and Support Services Vanessa Miller-Kaigler.

And she says the current situation is actually not the norm.

"As we speak with some of our colleagues around the country and in this region, very few of them transport specialty school students," said Miller-Kaigler.

Consolidation would mean about 6,000 students would be dropped off and picked up at just ten bus stops. The superintendent says this impacts a small number of kids who don't attend their own neighborhood schools.

"So some way or other we've got to stop taking two children all the way from the west side of the county all the way to the east. And then, you know what? We've got kids at Tybee who are choosing other locations that we take also long distances. That's what we're trying to reduce," said SCCPSS Superintendent Dr. Thomas Lockamy.

A board survey found three out of four parents hate the idea. And half say their kids would stop attending specialty schools.

"I work, my husband works. I'm not going to have time drop them off at a stop and pick them up by 5:15, even 6 o'clock, which is the proposed pick-up time," said Latasha Gordon, mother of specialty school students.

Gordon is just one of the many parents who don't support the plan. Her kids are straight-A students and she said being forced to take them out of those schools is unfair.

"And I feel like they work hard for that, and I feel like that they should be rewarded for that with their education, to be able to go wherever they want to," said Gordon.

For the school board, the state only contribute about $3 million to a $26 million transportation budget. The rest of the money comes from local tax dollars, like the three-quarter milage increase this past year.

In fact, the board sold that millage increase with the promise of no consolidated bussing. But school officials say that was only good for this year, even though the millage increase lasts longer.

"This plan is proposed for the 2016-2017 school year, so everything that was approved in May and June was applicable for the current school year, so anything that we're looking at now would be for next school year," said SCCPSS Executive Director of Support Services Tammy Perkins.

The board won't vote on the measure until Dec. 9th. If you missed Wednesday's meeting, another one is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday night at Islands High School.

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