School News

School personnel hearing raises concerns about bus routes & lack of drivers

by Kate Evans

At the March 21 meeting of the Morgan County Board of Education, a personnel hearing was conducted for Bus 196 bus driver David Kerns who was recommended for transfer/unassigned effective at the end of the 2022-2023 school year. Kerns requested an open hearing and expressed concerns for Paw Paw students.

Attorney Denise Spatafore represented the Morgan County Board of Education and Morgan County Service Personnel Association president Christen Ambrose represented Kerns at the hearing.

Spatafore said that the driver position for one Paw Paw bus run has been unfilled since the driver resigned at the beginning of the year and it has been uncovered a lot of the time.   Kerns needed to be placed on transfer so the transportation department could combine the two runs.

Bus runs for Paw Paw students have been cancelled at least twice in the last month due to lack of a driver.

Bus time

Ambrose said that Kerns was concerned about how long kids would be on the bus with the combined runs.

First pick-up is between 5:40 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. and kids would get home at 5 p.m.  They would not be able to participate in after-school activities.

Ambrose said that no one would be at school at 7 a.m. to meet students when they got off the bus.

Kerns also said that Magnolia Road is a dangerous road to be driving with students and that the school bus takes up the whole road, which doesn’t have guardrails.  Putting kids on the bus that early takes them all the way down to Magnolia and Fisher’s Bridge. The route change may also discourage Paw Paw students from going to James Rumsey Technical Institute.

Double bus run

Transportation Director Tammy Painter said she proposed one double bus run instead of the current two bus runs to ensure providing service due to lack of staff.  They had a long-term substitute covering the second bus run now, but that was subject to change.

“If we have to shut down the bus run, kids aren’t getting to school.  We don’t have a person to put in the bus,” Painter noted.

Bus driver training

Painter said it’s a four-to-five month process to train a bus driver.  She’ll only run a class if she has a minimum of three applicants since they usually end up with only one driver making it through the class.

Painter said that she, their mechanic and substitute drivers have gone from Berkeley Springs to Paw Paw to do the bus run, but that it’s hard traveling that distance twice a day to do it.  The double Paw Paw bus run would be 17 minutes longer than a similar double bus run at Pleasant View Elementary, which has been done for many years.  It isn’t ideal, but it was a solution.

The three James Rumsey students would get picked up at 5:40 a.m. and would ride to the transfer bus or the schools’ can pay parents mileage to drive to or pick up their kids at the bus meeting spot at 6:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Before and after care

Painter said that other schools had personnel that came in at 7 a.m. Human Resources Director Dale Shaffer said the school system offers before and after care and that personnel or administrators share the duties.

Board member John Rowland said he’d taken bus driver training as a coach. Rowland expressed concerns about how long students would be on the bus.

Spatafore requested that the school board approve Kerns’ transfer so that the shorter bus run could be combined with the other bus run since it was unfilled on a permanent basis.

The school board voted 4-1 later in their meeting to approve Kerns’ transfer in the personnel actions, with Rowland voting against the transfer.