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Schools won't maintain bus turnarounds

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‘If you live way out in the county...then you ought to maintain your own turnaround.’

By Leslie Moore

 

Families with children attending Taylor County Schools who ride the bus will now have to be responsible for building and maintaining their own bus turnarounds.

According to Rodney Turpin, transportation director for Taylor County Schools, the county built and maintained turnarounds for buses. However, Turpin said, because of tough economic times, the county has had to make cutbacks to save money.

And he said he believes county officials have made the right decision.

"For a family that moves 15 miles out in the county, and then turns around and moves 800 yards off the main road and then they expect you to come in and build their turnaround, I think that's incorrect," Turpin said. "I think that's wrong."

Turpin said the district has received several requests from parents that they provide a turnaround. At the Taylor County School Board meeting on June 10, Superintendent Roger Cook said the district does not have the funds available to do this.

Turpin said having four or five road department employees come with truckloads of gravel and grater blades to build a turnaround is asking too much of the county's money and time.

Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers said it is a misuse of the county's funds to build turnarounds unless a resident wants to deed the turnaround to the county.

"If you live way out in the county and you want public free transportation on a school bus, then you ought to maintain your own turnaround," Turpin said.

Turpin said those parents who aren't willing to pay for a turnaround will have to bring their child to the nearest stop on the bus' regular route.

Those who will be affected by this change have already been notified and Turpin said he knows several parents aren't happy about it.

"Some people work with you, some don't," Turpin said.

Turpin said having a place to turn around is not the only safety issue affecting bus drivers with rural routes.

Finley Ridge Road, Lemon Bend Road and other one-lane roads throughout the county can pose a risk when other drivers expect buses to move and let them through.

"One thing I want to explain to the public is our buses can't get over," Turpin said. "The buses are top-heavy. If they drop 8 or 10 inches into a ditch, it's very easy for them to turn over."

And, according to Turpin, once a bus starts sliding, it's hard to stop 29,000 pounds.

Turpin said the district's drivers are very vigilant about safe driving. In the three years that he has been transportation director, Turpin said buses haven't been involved in any at-fault traffic collisions.

"One-lane roads are a big concern," Turpin said. "We just try to keep the speeds down and the community's gotta be watching, too."

Summer school wraps up this week so drivers are unlikely to encounter school buses until the new school year begins in August.

Turpin said 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. and 3:15 to 4:30 p.m. are when drivers should be on the alert for meeting school buses, and that staying safe is easy.

"[Just] look out for the big yellow bus."