(01/17/2017)
By Bob Weaver

UPDATE 1/14/2017 - Some Calhoun parents have complained that their children are not being transported to school, a situation that has happened this school year, with Calhoun Schools saying it because there is a lack of substitute drivers.

In some cases the bus does not have a driver to make the daily run, while in other cases, students have been transported to school and there is no driver to return them home after school.

"The school doesn't count them absent, which means that school records say they received a day of education," wrote a parent, who asked that their name be withheld. "Students are suppose to have 180 days of instruction" said the grandparent of several students who missed three "no driver" days last week.

Calhoun Superintendent of Schools Tim Woodward said, "It is essential to get every child to school in the morning, and we will then find a way to get them home, if that becomes an issue."

Curtis Garretson, CCO of Administrative Services, told the Herald the school system is working to correct the transportation problem.

Garretson said to drive a school bus in the state of West Virginia you must be certified, indicating a local problem with a lack of applicants.

"This past weekend we had one driver pass their test and is now certified to drive as a substitute for Calhoun County. We are set to start a new class in the next couple of weeks with four new candidates," Garretson said.

Policy 4336 states that a candidate shall be at least 21 years of age, shall have a high school diploma, or a GED, must have a CDL, the candidate must be able to pass a background check, the candidate must pass a pre-employment drug test, the candidate shall successfully complete a minimum of 40 hours of non-driving instruction.

The candidate must successfully complete a minimum of 12 hours on-the-road training including two hours of night driving. The candidate must be able to pass a physical examination from a Medical Examiner.

Garretson said the driver applicants could be certified in the next 8 weeks, depending on their individual schedules and their availability to meet the requirements.

"We do have candidates that will start the class and then drop out because they lose interest in the job, or can't pass a part of the requirements. We will also have candidates go through the entire process and get certified, and then decide they don't want to drive," he said.

The state transportation office is aware of the Calhoun issue, and has been supportive in efforts to try and recruit new candidates. "A RESA trainer that we use to train our candidates has agreed to come and speak to our board members about the requirements that are needed to be a bus driver in the state of West Virginia, and the obstacles that Calhoun County is facing in getting qualified drivers that are willing to drive," said Garretson.

The public is welcome to attend the next scheduled board meeting to hear more about this issue on January 18th at 5:30 p.m. at the Calhoun County Board of Education office.

UPDATE 1/10/2017 - Beech Run Rd/Milo Rd/Wolf Run Rd in Calhoun County: Bus #20 Route 10 will not run Wednesday, January 11 for a third day, according to Calhoun Schools, related to not having a substitute bus driver.

UPDATE 1/3/2017 - Calhoun Schools continued to have transportation problems delivering students to and from school, the first day students returned from Christmas vacation.

School officials announced Monday night that Sand Ridge/Millstone/Sycamore Rd/Mt. Zion Rd - Bus #7, Route 6 had been cancelled for Tuesday.

UPDATE 12/20/2016 - Calhoun Schools continued this week to have bus transportation problems getting students to school.

It is a new problem for Calhoun students, linked to cut-backs and the lack of substitute drivers.

Supervisor Curtis Garretson said the Beech Run Rd/Milo Rd/Wolf Run Rd., Bus #20 Route 10 was cancelled December 20th because of the lack of a substitute driver.

The school system said Wednesday there were problems with the same route.

Several runs have been canceled this year because the system does not have substitute drivers, and in some cases the students were brought to school, but a driver was not available for the return trip.

Garretson said if students could not make it to school, they would not be counted as absent.

Bob Weaver 12/10/2016

Some Calhoun parents are expressing concern regarding incidents where the Calhoun Schools transportation system has been unable to provide bus transportation in returning students to their homes on evening runs.

School officials say the situation is linked to the lack of substitute bus drivers.

Calhoun Superintendent of Schools Tim Woodward said, "It is essential to get every child to school in the morning, and we will then find a way to get them home, if that becomes an issue."

Woodward said, "There are instances when the bus driver brings students to school and something happens and they have to be off in the afternoon. At that point, we attempt to at the very last moment get a substitute."

He said there are simply no subs available in Calhoun, a problem with many other school systems around the state.

Few people want to go through the certifying process for one or two days working a month, although at times, substitutes are needed for longer stretches.

In the incidents where a driver is not available to made the return to home in the evening, "At this point we alert the parents so they can come get their children. However, if they can't get them, which has happened, we have found away to get them home including teachers or administrators transporting them."

During the 2016-17 school year, the school transportation system cut four regular bus routes (18 to 14 routes), partly related to retiring drivers and as cost cutting.

With the new bus routes, Woodward said it impacted 18 families at the end of routes, who must now provide transportation for their students to the bus stop.

"However, only about five were over the two mile law stated in code. If they are over two miles away from the bus we must compensate them to take their children to the bus stop," said Woodward.

"The bus routes were updated for several reasons. First, since the dramatic decline in enrollment we adjusted everything except for bus routes. We had buses traveling daily at only half capacity or less."

"Secondly, we do not have bus drivers to replace retiring bus drivers and subs. Finally, this came as a financial savings and is a reason we have been able to reduce the deficit over the last three years," Woodward concluded.


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