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BOE Passes New School Bus Drop-Off Policy



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BOE Passes New School Bus Drop-Off Policy

By Eliza Hallabeck

With the unanimous approval of a new drop-off policy, the Board of Education on September 4 defined when students in kindergarten through fourth grade can be dropped off at their bus stops.

“We need some guidance before we start working on this, and we need it now,” said Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson.

Middle Gate Principal Christopher Geissler and Sandy Hook School Principal Dawn Hochsprung spoke to the board on the topic during the Tuesday night meeting.

Dr Robinson explained there is no previous district policy on when a student can be dropped off at a bus stop, but there was a past practice. Before a committee can draft the policy, Dr Robinson said the school board needs to approve it.

The typical practice in Newtown in the past, Ms Hochsprung explained, was to drop students in kindergarten through fourth grade off if there was an adult or older sibling at the stop. Ms Hochsprung said concerns were voiced by parents by the second day of school this year that students in first through fourth grade, and in some instances kindergarten, were dropped off at a bus stop without an adult or older sibling present as per All-Star Transportation’s practice.

Ms Hochsprung said there is no state law or policy on the subject that she is aware of, and said when she and Mr Geissler became aware of parent concerns regarding transportation, this was one issue that stood out. At the start 2012-13 academic year last week, Ms Hochsprung said, school principals erred on the side of caution and decided to have students without an overseer at a bus stop brought back to school.

“We thought that was the safer route than allowing children to be dropped off with no one at the stop to meet them if that was not what they were accustomed too,” said Ms Hochsprung.

Mr Geissler said the principals were looking to the school board members for guidance on how to frame a policy and a way to document whether a student had permission to be dropped off without an overseer present.

While trying to reach a compromise, knowing that some parents may not be able to meet students at a stop, Ms Hochsprung said they suggest having the policy state that a parent, an adult known to the child, or an older sibling be present at the stop.

Through the policy, as voted on by the school board, parents of students in first through fourth grade will have the option of signing a waiver saying their child can be dropped off without an overseer present. For students in kindergarten, however, the waiver will not be made available. A parent, known adult, or older sibling will have to be at the stop for the child.

Ms Hochsprung also said parents will have the option of communicating to the schools a designated person as being the “known adult” for a child, and that note will be shared with All-Star Transportation.

If no one is at a stop for a kindergartener or a student without a signed waiver, the child will not be dropped off, and he or she will be returned to the student’s elementary school.

Ms Hochsprung explained in the event that a child is returned to the school, All-Star Transportation will notify the school and the school will contact the parent that their child will be at the school waiting to be picked up.

Comfort, Ms Hochsprung said, is knowing that each child is safe.

The policy passed the school board unanimously and will be put before a committee to be drafted.

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