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BoE grants limited access to public buses
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The Liberty County Board of Education met Tuesday to discuss concerns about the new Liberty Transit system buses accessing school property at Liberty County High School.
At the last BoE meeting, Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission representatives asked BoE members to consider allowing the transit system to use Liberty County High School property as a turnaround area for the 30-foot buses to navigate back out onto their routes, Superintendent Judy Scherer said.  
BoE members did not want to allow the buses to use the property as a student safety precaution, the superintendent said.
“If we allow a public transit bus to go on our campus and, God forbid, somebody on that bus intends to harm our students, then we assume the liability because we permitted that,” BoE member Carol Guyett said. “I just have issues with it.”
LCPC representative Rachel Hatcher went before the board again Tuesday to ask members to consider allowing buses the use of the bus maintenance facility on the right side of Highway 84. She also asked if the Performing Arts Center could be used as a turnaround point during school hours.
Hatcher assured board members the bus drivers are trained to stop only in designated areas and that riders will not be dropped off on the campus, but in front of the campus, beside the football field.
“If you look at the distance from the designated stop-off of your campus to that front door, if someone meant to harm the students came in on a taxi cab, they could get an awful lot closer,” Hatcher said. “There is a very good buffer in between where we’ll be stopping and your actual facility.”
The buses also are equipped with a total of five cameras — inside and out — to monitor activity. So, Hatcher said, if anything happens, the school board can request those tapes up to five years later.
“I definitely understand and appreciate everyone’s concerns and hesitation, but we also have to look at the benefits to staff and parents that need inexpensive transportation,” Hatcher said.
The new buses also will stop near Bradwell Institute and First Presbyterian Christian Academy.
Hatcher pointed out that routes 1A and 1B will benefit students who may have missed the school bus. They also could provide rides for students who attend after-school tutoring sessions.
“This decision I understand is a very difficult one, but please keep in mind all the positive things that could come from it, that you’re providing parents, staff and students to ride this bus for $1,” she said.
BoE chairwoman Lily Baker said she’s concerned bus patrons may park cars on school property and then board the buses.
However, board members agreed to grant Liberty Transit limited access. The LCPC must report back in 60 days regarding any issues that may occur during the first couple months of operation.
The decision will not disrupt the bus service that starts Oct. 4, but the LCPC is still looking for additional possible turnaround locations, Hatcher said.
“Due to the board’s decision to limit Liberty Transit access to the bus maintenance facility and the Performing Arts Center for turnaround activities, we will have to develop a contingency plan for after-hours service to the bus stop directly in front of the LCHS,” she said. “This may result in a private partnership with property owners east of LCHS or it may result in limited service to the LCHS stop when the bus maintenance facility is closed.”

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