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NCSS adjusts policies for theme school transportation

COVINGTON - The Newton County School System has responded to some parents' concerns regarding transportation changes at the new theme schools, but they aren't reverting to the old practices.

A week after listening for over an hour to more than a dozen parents voice their uncertainties to the Newton County Board of Education regarding the discontinuation of afternoon bus service from the theme school to the students' homes, school officials have posted answers to questions posed during the meeting on the system Web site, www.newtoncountyschools.org.

Although the system plans to keep afternoon transportation limited to drop-off areas around the county, as it decided two weeks into the school year, it has made some changes to accommodate some parents who were having problems with this modification, as determined in the school board meeting.

Some parents in subdivisions near the theme schools wanted their students to walk home if buses could not take them home, but the schools have not been allowing students to do so.

Now, the schools are allowing students to walk to subdivisions adjacent to the schools in a secured area, as long as they have permission from their parents or guardian, according to the Q&A form.

Still, students are not allowed to walk beside a major road, as some have done, for safety reasons.

Students also have the option to be picked up by their parent or guardian at the school, at one of several parent pickup points around the county or remain at school for the after-school program.

Parents who decided to pick up their students at the pick-up points told the board that some children were not monitored as to who they rode home with and there were concerns about their safety.

Now, schools plan to assign numbers to each child and parent in order to have them picked up in an orderly fashion, according to the Q&A form.

Additionally, some parents were concerned that buses were overcrowded - parents reported three to four children sitting in one seat on some of the buses.

Now, the schools have adjusted buses serving the parent pick-up points, so no bus is considered overcrowded.

Officials originally advised parents to use the after-school program to keep their students if they could not pick them up at the school or a drop-off point, but soon the program filled up.

Now, the after-school program staff is working to increase the number of certified teachers in order to open more student slots. Registration has now reopened.

Although enrollment at the theme schools has decreased by several dozen since the start of the school year, the Q&A said that it has not affected their state funding level. Schools may have to add or move teachers as student enrollment changes across the county, however.

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