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News

Students in Ms. Tina Hendrix's Third Grade Class with Dr. Craig Lockhart, Deputy Superintendent; Samantha Fuhrey, Superintendent;  Sheriff Ezell Brown; Heard-Mixon Elementary Principal Marquita Wilkins, and Mike Barr, Director of Support Services; join Elvis the Safety Owl after completing their School Bus Safety Training Class.

Newton County School System is celebrating National School Bus Safety Week!  In addition to honoring the bus drivers who work hard to transport over 11,000 students to and from school each day, the district has also launched  a new school bus safety curriculum for students. 

“Student safety is the pupil transportation department’s number one concern,” said Michael Barr, Director of Support Services. “Our bus drivers receive training each and every year but it takes more than just a highly trained bus driver to keep students safe on the bus. Students must do their part and so must other motorists.”

As such, Barr said the school district is launching a new school bus safety curriculum that meets the requirements of the Georgia Department of Education’s school bus safety curriculum. All students and teachers in the district will participate in the program which kicked off at Heard-Mixon Elementary School on Tuesday, October 22, 2013.  The program was originally developed by Forsyth County Schools and is now being utilized by several school districts in Georgia.

Having bus drivers and students trained on school bus safety procedures isn’t enough, according to Barr.

“Another concern is the failure of motorists to obey school bus laws,” he said. “The most dangerous time for our students is when they are boarding or disembarking the bus. Some motorists continue to pass buses when the red lights on the school bus are activated.  This makes for a very dangerous situation.”

In fact as part of a nationwide survey conducted last year, bus drivers in Newton County reported 109 school bus stop violations in a single day.  As a result, Newton County Schools in conjunction with the Newton County Sheriff’s Office launched a photo enforcement program in an effort to significantly reduce the number of violations that occur each day.  Currently, twenty-five of the school system’s buses are now outfitted with high-resolution cameras that capture photos and video of motorists who illegally pass school buses while students are boarding or disembarking at bus stops.  Offending motorists are mailed a picture of the event and levied a fine.

“The goal of the program isn’t to fine motorists, it’s to reduce the number of violations,” said Barr. “Our school district has a fleet of 211 buses that travel over 2.3 million miles a year; on average that’s approximately 13,000 miles each day. They are carrying the most precious cargo we have—our students. And the only way we can ensure their safety is if bus drivers and students follow school bus safety rules and other motorists obey the traffic laws. It’s a shared responsibility that we all have.”