Somerset Co. School Officials Propose School Bus Changes - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Somerset Co. School Officials Propose School Bus Changes

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(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)
WESTOVER, Md.- A plan to reduce the number of door-to-door stops to save more time for public school students is under way in Somerset County. 

Shanee Cotton of Princess Anne has three children. WBOC caught up with her as she dropped two of  her kids off at daycare Monday morning. When school is in session, Cotton said the school picks her children up in front of the center, which is something that gives her peace of mind.

 "It gives me a good feeling because I know that my children are getting on the bus safely in the morning," Cotton said. 

Like some parents, Cotton has gotten comfortable with the routine that could change for her children this upcoming school year. In a letter, Transportation Director Greg Sutton notified parents about the need to replace doorstep pickups with corner bus stops in populated areas.

"I would feel uncomfortable about that," Cotton said.

Whitney Turner, a mother of four, prefers having her children picked up from stops where other children congregate.She likes the idea.

"It's less stop-and-go traffic for us commuters who have to get to work on time, and I think it is a little bit safer than the kids being in the street anyway," Turner said.

Leo Lawson, a spokesperson for Somerset County Public Schools, said the school system has nearly 3,000 students and more than 90 percent of them ride the school bus. With so many stops, Lawson said some children are on the bus for more than one hour, so the need to minimize the number of stops is necessary.

"Students will not have to ride as long on the bus," Lawson said. "It makes a huge difference because some students are getting on the buses now before 6 a.m. and that makes for a very long day."

The school system has 34 buses. Bus drivers travel 750,000 miles annually. In the letter, Sutton said  the elimination of a shuttle service that picks up students who are transported to Washington and Crisfield High Schools from their rural homes, then take them to Somerset Intermediate School, would be eliminated. 

"That will eliminate 15 to 20 minutes of time, one way, for each of those students," Lawson said. 

County School officials said rider eligibility will be enforced this upcoming school year as well. 

According to the policy, children in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten must live more than a 1/2 mile from their school. Children between the first and fifth grade have to live more than one mile from school to catch the bus, and students in the sixth thru 12th grade must live more than 1.5 miles  from school in order to ride the bus.

Sutton plans to provide more updates on the changes next month. 

A series of public meetings will be scheduled in the near future to get parental feedback. 

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