School buses will be making fewer stops

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Sarah Nagem
The Rowan-Salisbury School System is not sure yet how many bus stops it will eliminate in the upcoming school year, the transportation director said Monday.
To cut diesel costs, school buses will make fewer stops. Last school year, buses stopped a total of about 14,500 times a day, said Judy Burris, the school system’s transportation director.
Route supervisors are still outlining the stops, and final routes should be finished by Aug. 22, Burris said.
Fuel prices aren’t as high as they were at the end of the school year, but state funding still won’t cover costs if current prices hold steady.
Last week, the school system paid $3.40 a gallon for fuel. In the upcoming school year, Burris said, the state will reimburse schools at a rate of $3.23 a gallon.
The school system will dip into its local budget to make up the difference.
“We hope the prices will still come down,” Burris said.
She said the school system paid $4.11 a gallon in June.
By making fewer stops and maintaining more consistent speeds, buses will burn less diesel, Burris said.
“There’s probably going to be some parents upset,” she said.
But Burris said the bus stops and routes will comply with local policies.
The state says buses shouldn’t travel less than two-tenths of a mile between stops.
Burris and Assistant Superintendent of Operations Gene Miller presented cost-saving suggestions to the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education on Monday. A committee of more than a dozen school employees met last month to brainstorm ways to cut back on energy costs.
In addition to reducing bus stops, Burris said the transportation department will also encourage bus drivers to not let their buses idle. Drivers will face consequences if they let buses idle for more than five minutes รณ a policy Burris said the school system has had in place for years.
Considering fuel costs, school board member Karen Carpenter asked if maintenance employees should continue to drive work vehicles home.
“We have talked about that and considered that,” Miller said.
But he said maintenance workers are often on call, and they need the tools in the work trucks if they have to respond to an emergency. Also, Miller said, workers would charge the school system for mileage if they used their own cars.
Miller said he “doubts very seriously” the costs of taking vehicles home versus not taking them home would be much different.
Some school board members said they weren’t thrilled about the committee’s suggestion to eliminate mini refrigerators, microwaves and coffee pots from classrooms.
“It just sends the wrong message to teachers,” Carpenter said.
Miller said personal appliances in classrooms are costing up to $1,200 a year at each school.
But some board members said teachers should be allowed the convenience.
“Anyone who uses a community refrigerator knows there’s no guarantee what you put there in the morning will be there later,” Carpenter said.
The committee had also suggested that junior varsity and varsity sports teams could play on the same night to reduce bus costs.
School board member Patty Williams said the downside would be that students would have to arrive at sports events early and stay late.
Other suggestions from the committee included asking teachers to turn off their classroom lights and adopting a more lax policy for watering athletic fields.