Randolph Board of Education reverses tiered bus plan

ASHEBORO – The Randolph County Board of Education met Monday, June 20 with the agenda consisting of a reversal of the new proposed busing plan and a revision to next year’s calendar. 

At their last meeting, the board approved a pilot plan by the Transportation Department that would have changed how busing worked. 

The plan would have been a pilot program involving Coleridge Elementary School, Farmer Elementary School, Franklinville Elementary School, Ramseur Elementary School, Tabernacle Elementary School, Southeastern Randolph Middle School, and Uwharrie Ridge 6-12 and would have changed pickup and drop off time for those students.

The tiered plan would reduce the number of required buses from 141 to 108 and would help to address the county’s shortage of bus drivers. 

However, after the board started to receive negative feedback from parents and guardians, the board decided to reverse that decision.

“We had asked the Transportation Department to go out and find a good plan to save money,” said Chairman Gary Cook. “We’re short on bus drivers and they did just that. They brought a plan back and we approved it that night. But we should have gotten a little more input from parents and taken in some more consideration.”

A couple of the issues brought up were parents and guardians who had long drives into work and wouldn’t be able to wait the extra time especially in the face of time missed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how the pilot would have middle schoolers leaving before elementary schoolers so they couldn’t be able to watch over the young ones either.  

“Maybe we rushed into this a little too fast,” Cook said. “We represent the people and we should listen to them. As a board we have to take into consideration what works best for the people. I knew we’d get comments either way. Whether you put it out to the people or not, if people aren’t satisfied, people will leave comments. We got the comments and I think if you make a mistake, you fix it.”

The board addressed how they will have to continue to work out a solution for the bus driver shortage with one of the potential ideas being floated would be to increase incentives and pay for drivers in order to compete with the more competitive market. 

The other agenda item that the board took action on was a revision to the 2022-23 school calendar in order to add four early release days.

Due to the introduction of the statewide required LETRS curriculum, K-5 teachers and some additional staff have to go through eight three-hour training sessions over the year in order to prepare for its implementation. 

“We brought up the question of whether we could insert four of those eight three-hour sessions as early release days to give the teachers a break,” said Superintendent Dr. Stephen Gainey. “Those eight three-hour sessions right now are from 3:30 to 6:30 and I’m proposing that on four of those days – September 15, November 17, January 19 and March 16 – we have the session from 1:00 to 4:00. It’ll give our teachers a little bit of a break, because they do have to do the training.” 

On those early release days, there will be a hard 12:30 p.m. release time and for other staff such as middle and high school teachers, there will be staff development training as well as professional learning committee training to make up for lost time during the pandemic.

The Randolph County Board of Education will next meet June 29.

By Ryan Henkel