Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Education Transportation Changes in Henry County Schools Due to Lack of Funding

For the first time in almost twenty years, Henry County Schools (HCS) will have to modify its implementation of Henry County Board of Education Policy EDD Bus Scheduling and Routing. Consequently, the HCS Transportation Department will be unable to transport all students as it has in the past.

"It saddens the Board to have to make this decision, and it is something we would rather not have to do,” says Chairman of the Board Ray Hudalla. “We just don't have the resources to continue providing the level of transportation service we have for the last several years. We are asking that the transportation department adhere to the level of service as described in our Bus Scheduling and Routing Policy, policy EDD."

The policy to which Hudalla is referring states in part that “Students who live more than one (1) mile from the school to which they are assigned are eligible for transportation to and from school.”

In past years, students who live less than a mile from the school to which they are assigned have also been offered transportation as a courtesy and in keeping with discretionary elements included in Policy EDD. However, the current demand for seat space will result in routine transportation only for those students who live more than one mile driving distance from the school to which they are assigned. This change in practice will begin August 3, 2009. In addition and also in keeping with Policy EDD, bus stops will routinely be placed in a manner where a student would not travel more than a .3 mile increment. The complete policy may be viewed at https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/ePolicy/policy.aspx?PC=EDD&Sch=4088&S=4088&RevNo=1.12&C=E&Z=P or you may visit the Henry County Schools Website at www.henry.k12.ga.us and look under Board of Education and follow the links to Board Policy, then specifically to Policy EDD.

“For the first time in twenty years, Henry County Schools will not transport students within a mile of their home school,” says Superintendent Michael Surma. “Even though the policy was approved by the Board August 1990, we have been able to accommodate those students who were within the mile measurement from the school. With present funding, we are no longer able.”

The failure of the recent school bond referendum combined with reductions in state funding, a decrease in SPLOST collections, and other financial challenges have decreased funding for additional buses to transport students within Henry County Schools. Without additional buses, the school system is analyzing how to most effectively use existing resources. While the school system transportation budget requirements are $14 million, the State will fund only $1.8 million for the 2009-10 school year, a decrease from last year.

“We are challenged with a huge disparity of funds. We have been able to compensate for the disproportion in the past through SPLOST and Bond Referendum funds,” says Director of Transportation Cliff Shearouse. “We do not have that option at this time.”

Henry County has seen dramatic growth in past years. Within the last six years alone, student enrollment rose from 29,912 in 2003 to 39,665 in 2009. This growth has challenged the system to purchase enough buses to meet the demands of this growth in student population.

State Funding:
· State funding $1.8 million for 2009-10 (decrease from last year)
· State funds no buses more than 10 years old
· State does not provide funding for students living within 1.5 miles from the school

Henry County Schools Transportation Facts:
· Budget requirements - $14 million
· Total bus fleet = 347
· System currently has 132 buses that are more than 10 years old
· A recommendation was made to purchase additional buses at a cost of $3,910,000
· Student Ridership (Based on January 2009 headcount)
o 39,665 students enrolled
o 24,224 students transported on buses (approximately 60% ridership)
· Maintenance Costs - $ 3.2 million (Fuel, Insurance, Tires, Parts, etc.)
· Estimated number of buses eliminated from full routes by implementation:
o Elementary School implementing 1 mile rule – 29 buses
o Middle School implementing 1 mile rule – 1 bus
o High School implementing 1 mile rule – 2 buses

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