Parents maintain eliminating bus route would cause hardship
Much to area parents’ liking, a half-century old school bus route serving Belvidere’s Marshall Road area is going to get at least two years older.
The Board of Education had considered abandoning the route — as the system has done with another on Monteagle that had been picking up students residing in Marion County — to have the designated bus serve students in north Franklin County.
However, families in the Marshall Road area expressed concern about how abandoning the route would disrupt their children’s lives.
The board, in a split vote Monday, approved to extend the route at least two more years.
Voting for the extension were board members Mike Holmes, Betty Jo Drummond, Cleijo Walker, Christine Hopkins and chairman Kevin Caroland.
In opposition were Chris McDonough, Chris Guess and Lance Williams.
Those in favor agreed two years would give parents who would be affected by the route’s termination time to decide how to get their children to their perspective schools without the service.
Holmes recommended the time frame be extended further to allow the route to remain intact until the youngest student, now 9 years old, graduates from high school.
However, no other board members concurred.
Regarding the Monteagle route, Kim King, from the Jumpoff community, addressed the board Monday about the situation up there.
He said his children come from a stable family environment and have always used the route. He said abandoning it would disrupt their lives. He added he couldn’t take time away from his job to take his children to school if the route were abandoned.
King asked that the board consider continuing with the route.
However, the board took no further action on the matter.
Amid budget concerns, board members decided recently to consider cutting the routes where buses are traveling outside respective school attendance boundaries, including the one venturing across the county line, to pick up students.
The move to abandon the Marshall Road route had left parents in the area upset about whether their children would be abruptly transferred to school in Huntland.
About 25 parents and children from the area attended the Board of Education’s June meeting to air their concerns.
The board agreed not to take any immediate action and would look at other options, leading to Monday’s decision to continue with the route.
Derrick Crawford, 758 Marshall Road, was a designated speaker for the group on June 9, representing the affected parents.
He told the board it would be a great hardship to uproot 13 students who’ve been in Franklin County High, South Middle and Broadview Elementary schools an extended time period.
Crawford said some students are in advanced placement classes and are taking college courses that are not offered at Huntland.
He also said it would be detrimental to have students at their respective schools pulled out to begin attending classes at Huntland. He added that they’ve developed friendships and have strong connections to their current educational surroundings.
Dr. Rebecca Sharber, director of schools, said the proposal to remove the bus route is a budget matter, and the school system has requested the Franklin County Commission approve a 7-cent property tax increase to balance the school system’s finances.
Dr. Ellis Counts, transportation/safety director, said two other buses that go to Huntland are in the Marshall Road area.
He added that Franklin County’s north section has a bus shortage, and the one serving the Marshall Road area could be put to better use there. He said Marshall Road area students have access to the buses that go to Huntland anyway.
Caroland, board chairman, said that although the school system doesn’t have set-in-stone residential requirements, determining what schools children will attend, the Marshall Road area students are in the Huntland school zone. He added that if parents there want their children to continue attending FCHS South Middle and Broadview, they could drive them there.
Several parents said they have working schedules that would prohibit them from being able to drive their children to school. They requested the board to consider other options and said they were willing to chip in financially to keep the current bus in place.
Caroland said the school system could not legally accept contributions from parents toward busing students.
Crawford said the cost to continue with the bus is minimal, compared to the negative impact it would have on the students if they had to go to school in Huntland.
“Forty-three hundred dollars is not a lot to spend on 13 kids,” he said, comparing the annual expense to the school system’s $43.7 million overall budget.