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Following public complaints, bus drivers warned to slow it down

Bus drivers beware. Bus drivers and car drivers employed by the Halifax County Public School system will have to be attentive to their speedometers this school year to assure they’re following Virginia state speeding laws because eyes will be watching. 

Prompted by complaints from the public, Transportation Coordinator Earl Womack said both he and Director of Transportation Dave Guill will be out on the roads this year with radar guns ensuring drivers are following the law.

The Town of Halifax Police Department and South Boston Police Department and the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office have been “very supportive” and already have donated several radar devices, Womack said.

He emphasized the transportation department will have “zero tolerance” for speeders.

“I’ll have to call you into the office. That won’t make you happy, and it won’t make me happy,” he told drivers Wednesday morning during the annual transportation meeting of school bus and car drivers held at the Halifax County High School auditorium Wednesday morning.

However, speed won’t be the only thing these drivers will have to be concerned with this school year.

Guill also addressed the newly implemented policy approved by administration at a July school board meeting and later clarified by Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon and staff.

According to Herndon, the decision to change the plan was made following a staff meeting July 15 when county school administrators agreed the original transportation plan was a little “too rigid.” 

The plan, as presented at the school board meeting, didn’t provide all the necessary information. The superintendent said that fact was realized after the meeting, so the plan was tweaked.

A newly revised form now includes “options” and a weekly schedule that will be filled out by parents or guardians detailing locations where the student will get on and off the bus/car each morning and afternoon Monday through Friday.

The clarification of the new transportation plan can be found on the school’s website and reads as follows: “The primary goal for Halifax County Public Schools is the safety of our students. In an effort to further explain changes to the new transportation plan, a copy of the form has been posted on the Halifax County Public Schools’ website. In addition to the form, the following information will assist in understanding the new transportation plan.

There is flexibility to address household schedules.

 All parents or guardians will need to have a transportation plan on file in the school’s office. Parents may print and complete the transportation form and bring it to open house, or it may be completed at open house.

 The requirement for a parent or guardian to come to the school to change the plan only applies if the change is for an extended period of time.

 In case of emergency, phone calls will be accepted on an individual basis. Callers will be required to give the password that is determined by the parent and is included on the transportation plan.

 It is the responsibility of the parent or guardian to arrange for a person of their choice to meet the bus or pick up the child at school if no one will be at the address listed on the transportation plan.

 Parents can call or come by the school’s main office for help with completing the transportation plan form.”

Herndon said parents are asked to complete the transportation plan before school starts, and if they were not able to attend open house, parents can mail the transportation plan to the school.

“I’m looking forward to it helping us and helping you all,” said Guill.

“Some parents took advantage before…and in these situations it wasn’t fair to the school, the child or to you all,” he added.

In other business Wednesday, Guill also reviewed highlights in the driver’s manual with all drivers, and Womack presented several YouTube videos of possible scenarios of bus drivers losing their tempers, texting while driving and surviving a tornado.

 “Don’t bring your anger to work. Don’t take it out on these kids,” said Womack.

Following the meeting, door prizes donated by South Boston Speedway, VIRginia International Raceway, Belk, Walmart, Lowes, Riverdale Auto Parts, Auto Zone and Goode’s Lawn and Garden were given away.

“We’re looking forward to the new school year, and I think you all do an excellent job,” said Guill.

“Hope you all have a good and safe year,” concluded Womack. 

After the meeting, all drivers drove their buses and cars home in preparation for picking up students on the first day of school Monday morning.