Superintendent Jeff Wilson acknowledged the Floyd County school system is at a “new low” with bus drivers, and it is being attributed to a number of factors.
“We have had some serious issues with a handful of students whose parents are not at home when we take them home,” the superintendent said at the board’s Nov. 18 caucus. “We’ve had to take them back [to the school] and it’s getting to the point that we need to put something in place.”
Bus drivers are not allowed to leave children alone if they are age 9 or younger. This has resulted in some drivers being late to their second jobs, since they are responsible for bringing a student back to the school if their parents are not at the bus stop to pick them up.
A letter the district plans to send to parents explains that, after a certain number of infractions, the child would be suspended from the bus for some time. After the eighth infraction, the student would be referred to the Division of Family and Children Services.
“We have an after-school program that isn’t that expensive,” Wilson said. “If they can’t afford it, they just have to ask.”
He said they could make arrangements for needy students to go to the after-school care programs, which are available at every Floyd County elementary school and cost about $7 a day for one student. For two or more students, per family, the cost is $5 each, Wilson said.
Along with this, Wilson acknowledged that Rome City Schools’ need of bus drivers and the flourishing economy may have had an impact on Floyd County Schools.
“I think they’re paying more,” he said about RCS. He then turned to Dwight Tant, Floyd County Schools’ transportation director, for insight on why bus drivers are leaving their jobs with the district.
“For full-time work,” said Tant. “The economy’s good.”
The board also discussed the issue of parents not paying for their children’s school lunches. The lunch debt has risen to about $32,000 according to the nutrition directer, Donna Carver.
Board members indicated they are unsure of how to handle it, but said they hope to have some reasonable solutions by next month.
“We all agree that we’re not going to take kids’ food away,” Wilson said to the school board.
Right now, there are no consequences for parents who don’t pay for their children’s lunches.
“From the word that I’m hearing from folks in the community ... there’s some people who are just angry that they’re having to pay at all,” said Carver.
Board member Melinda Strickland, who represents District 2, suggested offering peanut butter and jelly sandwiches if parents are not caught up on lunch debt come Christmas break.
“They’re not going hungry,” she said. “They may not like what their getting.”
However, some members of the board remained adamant that not providing a meal was off the table.