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New year bumps leveling out

Several growing concerns from parents were addressed at the monthly Decatur County Board of Education meeting Thursday night.

The start of the new school year and the uncertainty of the wide-ranging reorganization caused some transitional issues—some expected and some unforeseen—but those concerns are being addressed and are improving. Among those concerns are heavy traffic in the mornings and afternoons around the schools and changes in the bus routes.

“I think we’re doing exceptionally well, we’ve all heard about the traffic and the buses, it has been a tremendous undertaking. Look at all we’ve done and we’re having class,” said Superintendent Ralph Jones. “Each and every day it has gotten better and better.”

The reorganization has caused a new set of bus routes and some growing pains have been experienced along with way. The relocation of the high school several miles outside of Bainbridge has increased the amount of students riding buses. Last year, 65 percent of the system’s students rode buses, that number is approaching three-quarters of the student’s this year.

Under the new busing system, the elementary school students are the last to be picked up in the afternoon. That fact has pushed back the dismissal time of the elementary schools to 3:20 p.m., causing some concern among some parents.

But, the later dismissal time was a planned effect of the new busing plan, according to Susan Johnson, assistant superintendent for K-5 curriculum.

“For years, we have needed more instructional time in the elementary schools to cover the required curriculum. With the reorganization and the revamping of the bus system, we saw this as a good opportunity to increase the instructional day,” said Johnson.

Previously, the elementary school students were released first, but were picked up by the buses first, as well. After being picked up at the elementary schools, the students changed buses at the old high school for their final destination.

That led to many of the younger students being on buses for up to two hours in the afternoon.

The new system allows those students to spend that time in the classroom instead of on a bus.

The new bus system has Bainbridge High School and Hutto Middle School students picked up first. The buses then travel to Bainbridge Middle School, where those students and the arriving students board buses departing the elementary schools. At the elementary school, the K-5 students board buses for drop-off at their homes.

Jones also addressed the H1N1 virus (swine flu) threat in the school system.

“We are on top of this, the janitors are on top of it, our food service is on top of it. In fact, we have an epidemiologist coming to talk to our group to make sure we are prepared,” Jones said.

“I have been in contact with health officials and we’re doing the very best we can. Our nurses have been instructed to isolate students with fevers and asking that those kids not return to school until 24 hours after fever reduces,” Jones continued.

Finally, the day 10 enrollment numbers for the Decatur County system show 5,657 total students, an increase of nine from last year. Of that total, 1,586 attend the high school, 770 at Bainbridge Middle School, 820 at Hutto Middle School, and 2,481 attending the elementary schools.