School Bus Route Change Has Hancock County Parents Upset

Starting Monday August 20th some students in the Hancock County School District will have to walk a half mile or so to meet their school bus. The district hopes to save money and make bus rides shorter by eliminating what's amounted to door to door service down some small country roads.

However, many parents say making their children walk so far away from home jeopardizes their safety. Rebecca Odom's 14 year old daughter catches the school bus just a few feet from home on Dogwood Lane. But starting Monday her bus stop will be at the end of her street where quiet Dogwood Lane meets busy Highway 53.

"The Board is telling me my child has to stand on Highway 53 in order to catch the bus every morning, then be let off there in the afternoons. That's incomprehensible for me to think that they would even do that to teenagers" said Rebecca Odom. She and other parents worry about the welfare of their children.

Linda Sentell says, "It's quite a distance for my son to be standing where I can't watch him. The safety issue, anything can happen to teenagers on the Highway. That's just not acceptable. "

Keith Sentell agrees, "It's going to be rainy and freezing and cold. It's going to be pitch black in the middle of the winter time when they have to leave the house to catch the bus."

School board members estimate that changing the bus routes and consolidating bus stops will save more than $100,000 a year. It will also cut the amount of time children spend riding the bus everyday.

District 4 board member Peggy Ladner told WLOX NEWS, "The original intent was to shorten as many routes as possible. Our district is so spread out that we have children on buses past 5 o'clock." But those motives haven't convinced many parents that the change is good.

Mike Ladner, Superintendent of Hancock County Schools, says he knew it would be an unpopular move. "I've gotten calls all weekend, and I've gotten calls today. I've had parents come by the office screaming yelling all kinds of language at us. I knew this was going to be the case, so we're asking those parents to come and address the board about the issues and their concerns."

The parents say if it takes being the squeaky wheel to bring the buses back, they're ready.

The buses begin rolling on the new routes August 20th, but the Hancock County School Board doesn't meet until September 6th to hear from parents. That meeting will begin at 5:30 pm at the district office in the Kiln.