School districts planning more efficient bus routes this school year

News 12 at This Morning // Wednesday, August 3, 2011

AUGUSTA, GA --- Today hundreds of students in Burke and Jefferson go back to school. Some students will be riding the bus to and from school. School districts in our area have been preparing and planning efficient routes all summer long.

At the Richmond county school board's transportation department, more than 200 buses have been inspected and given the green light to pick up students Monday morning.

This week Odell Thomas' tested his bus route for the year. For the past 16 years he's been driving a bus for Richmond county, but every year his route is tweaked a little.

"There are a lot of route changes. Going out couple days prior to running your route to get familiar with it. Come Monday bus routes be ready to go, kids be ready to go," said Thomas.

This year Richmond county has nearly 150 different bus routes to get an estimated 22,000 students to school and back. "We are currently recruiting drivers, training drivers on a regular basis. We feel like we'll have enough to start," said Jimmie Wiley with the school board's transportation department.

One of the main changes this year will be how students from magnet schools are taken home. "The parents were concerned about the length of time that they stayed on bus in the afternoon," said Wiley.

Now they will be shuttled from the magnet school to a middle school in their zone and then home. "We feel like we'll get the students home at least 40% to 50% faster than we did last year," explained Wiley,

Thomas' main goal is your child's safety. Every time he ends his route the bus' alarm goes off to remind him to check every seat, in case someone gets left behind. "You are like the captain of the ship. You have to be aware of your surroundings, whats going on the bus," added Thomas.

"Purpose of the trial run is to make sure you are familiar with the area so you can be proactive in not delaying the route," said Wiley.

Along with drivers like Thomas making the ride home a little safer, technology will play a role this year with GPS devices installed on every bus helping to monitor where the driver and students are on their route.

The routes will be monitored constantly. Drivers will be checking the number of students on the bus and reporting it back to the transportation department. That number will help the department determine how many more drivers they need or whether they'll need to tweak any routes.

In Richmond county school registration is August 3 from 8 to 4pm. Parents can go to their specific schools to find out more information on bus stop locations and times.

In Burke county parents can call the transportation department at 706-554-2859 to find out more information about bus transportation.

Younger students in Burke county will also have identification on a wrist band with their home address in case they get on the wrong bus.

In Jefferson county parents can visit, http://www.jefferson.k12.ga.us/ for information on bus routes.


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