THE HUNTER REPORT -- Before Monday's October 3rd Loudon County Commission workshop meeting, school board member Van Shaver expressed his displeasure to Director Jason Vance after learning of the Greenback school bus incident in the newspaper rather than from him. Why didn't director Vance communicate this news to all school board members before the news broke? This past July 15th, the school board gave Director Vance absolute authority to approve all bus drivers with unanimous board approval. Its one thing to have confidence in a person but its an entirely different to ignore oversight or turn a blind eye, that's not the role of a school board member or any other elected official. I think this issue should concern every parent and community resident, this concerns a child's safety, and a potential liability issue. Surprisingly, as of Tuesday (Oct. 4) morning, you will not see this article posted on school board member Van Shaver's website.
Parents unhappy with bus driver
Published: 7:44 PM, 09/30/2011Last updated: 11:16 AM, 10/03/2011
Author: Vicky Newman
Some parents and guardians of Greenback School students breathed a sigh of relief Friday when their children were
able to board and ride the school bus like
The day culminated a week of worry, concern and disrupted schedules for several families who claim a school bus
driver left their children in a parking lot
miles from home without notifying them first.
"We are up at arms," Crystal Todd said Thursday. "Quite a few parents here are very upset."
Todd's grandson, Alex Trodglen, was the youngest of the children said to have been left unattended.
Parents said nine students, ages 5-12, were put off the bus Monday because a bridge project on Unitia Road had
forced a traffic detour and a side road
had been barricaded. The children did not know what to do when they were
left at the road, Todd said.
Two boys, ages 12 and 7, walked the two miles to their home, according to Todd.
"They had to walk through an active construction site to leave," she said.
Pam Brown, mother of three girls ages 17, 10 and 8, said her children were lucky.
"I'm usually not home, but I stayed home sick that day, and my daughter called me," Brown said. "She is not supposed to have a phone at school or on the bus, and the bus driver did not know she had it."
Todd said the children were not put out because of behavior problems or other issues, but simply because the driver did not want to turn around and drive back to U.S. Highway 321.
Jason Vance, Loudon County Schools Director of Schools, said state law prohibits buses from running routes longer than 90 minutes. Last week, after the bridge was closed, parents were taking kids to meet the bus at a pull-off on the highway.
The families all live in Friendsville just inside the Loudon County line. They live close to Friendsville School on Gilbert Lane and Unitia Road, but attend Greenback School. The detour road, Kiser Station Road, intersects Unitia at the end of the bridge and is being closed now so that the bridge approach can be constructed.
Tennessee Department of Transportation officials said school officials and emergency response officials had been informed Sept. 23 that the road would be closed for bridge repairs. The bridge is 188 feet long, including the approach.
Work at the bridge approach caused Kiser Road to be closed, cutting off the detour. According to TDOT workers, the only alternative would be turning around and going back to Highway 321.
Delmar Davis, bus driver, said he did not know Kiser Road was going to be closed. It was open Monday morning but closed when the bus came through that afternoon. The children were not too far from the closer homes, Davis said.
"That afternoon the road was closed and tore up," he said. "I kept trying to work out what was best. I put the kids off to walk to a house - one of the pick-ups," he said. "At no time was a kid left in any dangerous situation. I did what I had to do. It was my decision, it was safe and now they're trying to make me out a bad guy."
Davis said he did not have to notify parents.
"The kids called their parents and the parents came down," he said. "Every kid on the bus has phones."
Davis said parents were informed that the road would be closed and that they would need to make alternate arrangements until a solution was found. Dawn Cox, transportation director, had been working to find a solution, he said.
Todd said it would not have been an undue hardship to turn around and take the children home from a different direction.
"It would have meant starting maybe 15 minutes earlier and finishing 15 minutes later," she said. "Our children are the first on and last off the bus. We wouldn't have minded getting them up earlier."
Cox said other arrangements had been made by the school system.
"We contacted a gentleman over the program with Blaylock Construction and he said we could use the detour road," she said.
"This road had been closed off to use, but they ramped up the road with rock and they are going to allow us to use it this week and next week.
Then the next week is fall break and all the
kids will be out."
Vance defended the actions of the system's transportation director.
"Dawn has worked diligently to make sure there is a solution for these students ... Truly, we went above and beyond the call of duty to five a creative solution," Vance said.
TDOT said the road will be closed until the end of October.