SCS to change procedure on bus travel playdates


SALISBURY - The meeting of the Salisbury Central School Board Monday, Jan. 28, was productive in initiating steps toward changes in dismissal procedures for the student body.

"This is the most exciting school board meeting we've been to," said Salisbury Central School parent Laura Smith, who, along with Salisbury Central parent Michelle Derr, argued for the logic of allowing students to ride different buses home after school to attend programs or go to friends' houses. 

Smith, who is married to Lakeville Journal reporter Terry Cowgill, and whose two children attend the school, referred to as models the dismissal procedures at the school where she teaches, Taconic Hills in Craryville, N.Y., and those at other Region One elementary schools. All allow children to ride home on buses other than the ones to which they are normally assigned.

Salisbury's transportation committee had previously declined to allow students to ride different buses home. Current policy, as read at the meeting Monday evening by board Chairman Roger Rawlings, only allows students to ride the route to which they are assigned. They can, however, get off at a different stop along that route if they have a note from a parent or guardian.

Rawlings took the matter back to the board from committee for reassessment and the opportunity for more input and investigation.

Teacher Diane Mayland suggested "we should just try it, with a trial period for a month at the end of school this year to work out the kinks."

Board member Jeffrey Lloyd said he had been told by school bus drivers that allowing students to go home on different buses would help the problem with congestion on Lincoln City Road at dismissal.

The line of cars idling there, he said, makes Lincoln City a one-way road at dismissal time, creating a dangerous situation in the event of any need for evacuation or emergency vehicle access to the school or other locations on the road.

A spreadsheet compiled by board member Brian Bartram illustrated the seating capacity of the school's six buses, the number of seats reserved for the morning arrival and the afternoon dismissal, and the actual seats filled according to surveys done in November 2007 and January 2008.

Students have assigned seats, which they do not switch while on the buses. The sheet included descriptions of the procedures for allowing students to switch buses going home from Region One's Sharon Center School and North Canaan Elementary School.

All five of the other elementary schools in Region One allow children to take buses other than their assigned bus for other events. Sharon does not allow children to switch buses for playdates; switching is only allowed for daycare or after-school programs.

After some discussion, the board decided that there are enough empty seats on buses from Salisbury Central at the end of the day to allow the plan to work. They decided to approve a test period of students riding home on buses other than their own, if a note is sent to school.

The board agreed unanimously to give Salisbury Central Principal Christopher Butwill the charge of redesigning dismissal procedure, taking into account current congestion problems and the proposed bus trial.

Once Butwill has completed his work, the trial period can begin.

Butwill said he would work to make it easier, not harder, for all at dismissal time. Changes will happen regardless, he said, and the only fair test is to try it and see how many students change buses. After the trial period, Rawlings said, the board will then vote on an actual change in policy as necessary.

In other business:

• Kindergarten registration will take place on Feb. 26 and 27, rather than in May as in other years.

• Sixteen Salisbury Central students are taking part in Regional Band and Chorus, which will culminate in a concert at Housatonic Valley Regional High School on Feb. 13.

• There are now two choices available for students at lunchtime in the cafeteria. This new approach has helped increase lunch sales.

• Board member Brian Bartram volunteered to be the board representative on the Comcast Advisory Committee.

• There was an executive session at the end of the meeting for the board to discuss two items: the evaluation of Region One Superintendent Patricia Chamberlain, and the school's bus contract.


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