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Bus drivers petition to change school year
Move is to get Long Schools started later
MR Long BOE Meeting Pic
The room was packed for the Long County Board of Education meeting. - photo by Photo by Mike Riddle
LUDOWICI — The Long County Board of Education has received a letter with the signatures of 27 bus drivers stating that if the 2008-09 school year begins earlier than Sept. 1, that those drivers would not report to work.
The letter was presented to the board at its Monday meeting.  
“We will continue to do our job this year, but we are drawing a line in the sand, that next year we can’t come back before Sept. 1,” Debbie Long said. “We can’t continue to endanger kids and put them in buses that are 120 degrees.”
Long, representing the majority of the district’s drivers, said the concern of the children was at the forefront for the decision to make the request.  
Board members Linda DeLoach and Billy Hall said they had ridden one of the buses the previous week, and the temperature inside had been 110 degrees.
“I rode one of the buses last week, and I couldn’t stay on it but for a short ride, I feel for the kids and the drivers who have to stay on the bus with it being as hot as it is,” DeLoach said.
Bus superintendent Ray Holloway informed the packed house that efforts were being made to deal with the heat by giving kids bottled water when they got on their buses, and routes had been adjusted to keep younger students off the buses while the high school students were loading, to shorten their time on the buses.  
According to Long and Holloway, a few drivers had been sick as a result of the heat, but none had taken time off, and all had continued driving their routes.
Long also said, that as far as she knew, there had been no reports of students being sick from the heat while on the buses.
The question of purchasing air conditioning for the buses was brought up, and Holloway said the additional cost on a new bus was around $10,000.
Walker Middle School Principal Vicky Wells also voiced concern about the amount of instruction time lost because of the changes in the bus schedule from dealing with the heat.
BOE Chairman Dempsey Golden reassured her and the principals that they would not be accountable for this lost time, due to the circumstances, and he also said the board’s number one concern was for the safety of drivers and students, and members are aware of the problem. Adjustments to deal with the problem would be made, Golden said.
After the meeting Long said six drivers did not sign the letter.
“We’re not asking for more money,” Long said, “and we understand that we can be replaced if you chose to replace us, but we’re just asking you to take into consideration what we are informing you of tonight.”
In other business, the board:
• Heard a recommendation from Holloway to consider hiring a certified heating and air employee
• Raised substitute teacher salaries in all categories by $2 for the upcoming year, and
• Praised all the three schools for making the AYP for the 2006-07 school year.
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