Kingsport schools add new bus due to increased ridership

Rick Wagner • Nov 5, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Board of Education has unanimously approved creating an additional full-time school bus driver’s position, which school officials said was needed because of increased ridership on the buses.

The board voted 5-0 Thursday night at its regular meeting to approve the new bus driver’s position, increasing the number of regular education school buses from 21 to 22.

The new driver — likely to be an existing fill-in driver — will drive a bus used as a spare bus, said Director of Student Services Tyler Fleming. But Fleming added that the system has another backup bus available.

Fleming said the additional driver is needed to relieve overcrowding on buses. Although technically in compliance with up to three students per seat, Fleming said middle school and high school students generally can sit safely and comfortably with only two students per seat, and increases in ridership warrant the additional bus.

Director of Transportation Ken Barnes recommended the addition, which was in the proposed 2009-10 budget considered in the fall but was cut out during budget changes, Fleming said. He said the addition of a new school, John Adams Elementary off Rock Springs Road, and an overall increase in ridership possibly driven by the slow economy have created the need for the additional bus and driver.

“Ridership is so hard to predict,” Fleming said of students who may ride the bus in the morning but not the evening or vice versa. He said middle and high school students in particular have after-school activities that mean they don’t always ride the bus in the afternoon.

Superintendent Richard Kitzmiller said funding and filling the position are not at issue, but the matter had to come before the BOE because only it could create a new position.

In other matters:

•Kitzmiller said letters and permission slips for students to receive the H1N1 vaccine before, during or after school should already be out at all schools. The vaccine, to be provided at no cost through the Sullivan County Regional Health Department, should be available in late November and also will be distributed to students in the Sullivan County and Bristol, Tenn., school systems.

He said H1N1 and other illness has caused some dips in student attendance but nothing dramatic.

•The Kingsport and Sullivan County school boards will meet in their second joint session this year at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10, at Ross N. Robinson Middle School to address issues of mutual concern. Those include city student enrollment growth, county enrollment decline, effects of annexation and an aging population, an upcoming shortage of city school buildings, and a surplus of county school buildings.

•The topic of the new Brown Bag Lunch, set for noon Wednesday, Nov. 11, at Ross N. Robinson Middle School, will be the 2009 Tennessee Report Card the state issued this week. Kitzmiller said the Report Card also may be a topic during the BOE work session at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19.

•The school system has received seven Putting Children First grants from Eastman Chemical Co. of $750 each. Kitzmiller said those are among 24 grants Eastman will announce the afternoon of Dec. 1.

•The annual online survey about the 2009-10 school calendar will continue through Friday, Nov. 13. To take the survey go to http://kingsport.schoolfusion.us/ and click the survey link.

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