NCSS changes theme school transportation

COVINGTON - Two weeks into the new school year, the Newton County School System plans to change transportation arrangements at the Fairview and Clements theme schools.

Fairview and Clements are parent-involvement theme schools that NCSS started at the beginning of this school year. When the school board approved plans for the schools over the summer, system officials said that bus service may be limited to and from the schools.

As of Monday, buses no longer will drop off students at their homes in the afternoon, according to a letter sent to parents of theme school students Tuesday.

"As you are aware, we have been working on the traffic congestion occurring each afternoon at our theme schools," NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley said in the letter. "Improvements have been made, but the underlying issues cannot be resolved without applying other solutions."

Whatley said Tuesday that most of the students who attend the theme school are car riders, which creates heavy traffic conditions in the areas of the schools. School board members also said Tuesday that they have received many phone calls from parents telling them about the backup of traffic and the lengthy time students spend on the buses.

Instead of home delivery in the afternoons, students will be taken by bus to a drop-off point. The drop-off points are at Oxford Baptist Church, Zion Baptist Church, Wal-Mart and the bus parking lot on Jack Neely Road near the intersection at Kirkland Road.

"This will decrease traffic on the school campuses and decrease student times for riding the bus," Whatley said in the letter. "We are continuing to determine if another drop-off point is needed to assist with traffic congestion."

At the drop-off point, students will remain on the bus with the bus driver until they are picked up, according to information Whatley provided to principals.

He said morning bus pickup routes will remain the same for both schools.

Still, several parents showed up at the Newton County Board of Education meeting Tuesday night to voice their concern for this strategy.

"It's going to be a big inconvenience for me to pick my child up miles away from my home," parent Erica Avery said. "We are both working parents."

Board members suggested to parents who would have the difficulty making this transition to use the after-school program available at both schools, which does require a fee, or to transfer their child to their assigned home school.

"It was my choice to send my children there, and I think it was the better choice," La Sharie Parker said. "But right now I'm looking at pulling my kids out of the school. I would like them to continue (but) this is a problem."

Students who transfer to another school will not be counted absent for days they attended the theme school and any uniforms purchased for the theme school will be allowed at the school the child transfers to, Whatley told principals.

Board member Cathy Dobbs apologized for the inconvenience and said that this was the school system's first year opening the theme schools and it wanted to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.

"We're willing to work with you all if you work with us," Parker said.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.