Harlan County Schools will continue to tighten their procedures for student groups planning out-of-state trips.
During Thursday’s regular meeting of the board of education, a list of trip requests was again discussed by board members concerned their policies are not being sufficiently followed by teachers, coaches and school administrators.
After researching the issue, Board Attorney Johnnie Turner told the board members it was required by state regulations for transportation, not education, that they must approve all out-of-state trips before any contractual arrangements by student groups or teams can be made.
Also, the district transportation director should review the licenses, certification, insurance and other pertinent documents of any commercial bus line before school groups negotiate and contract for services.
Joan Anderson, transportation director, also said multiple day trips using the district’s own buses can cause issues with regular bus routes because of the limited number of drivers available now.
“We need more drivers to cover the routes when trips take our drivers out of state,” she said. “We are running into a real problem.”
Board Chairman Gary Farmer noted how this issue was becoming a topic of concern for many districts in Kentucky and the board needs to address its policy issue so the rules are clear and up-to-date. The board members agreed to submit their recommendations to Turner who will prepare a policy draft.
Superintendent Mike Howard and board members stressed the need to include in the new policy a requirement for school administrators to attend overnight trips to improve discipline, security and safety.
When presented with a list of pending school trips, the board voted, mostly along split lines, to approve the requests. Among those were: the high school basketball team for a Christmas tournament in Hilton Head, SC; Cumberland’s eighth grade to Florida at spring break; Rosspoint Elementary to Pigeon Forge on Dec. 7; and Black Mountain’s eighth grade to Washington, D.C. after state testing is complete.
They turned down a request for high school seniors to go to Florida during spring break and directed the school to resubmit it when there is a sufficient number of chaperones. They also questioned why only 45 students were included on the request. They also returned a request from the girls’ varsity basketball team to attend a Christmas tournament in Tennessee for lack of complete information.
In a related move, the board approved the purchase of five new buses that will be financed by their participation in the Kentucky Interlocal School Transportation Association (KISTA). This organization will allow the district to obtain the new buses immediately for a total cost of $420,706 and the district will not have a payment due until Sept. 13, which allows the board to figure the cost in next year’s budget.
Farmer noted the new buses are “badly needed,” but that five probably won’t be enough. The board would need to find a way to purchase about seven new buses each year for awhile to get the fleet back in good operation. Anderson noted how some of the newer buses — the larger, urban style vehicle that some refer to as “flat-nosed” — did not hold up well in the mountains.
There have been a large number of mechanical problems with them, she said, and they have worn down really quickly. People like the way they look, but they are not well designed for climbing, breaking on steep grades, or making tight turns. Also, they are too long for many local routes because the vehicles often cannot turn around on Harlan County’s usually narrow and shoulder-less roads.
In other action, the board approved:
- Howard’s report on the football stadium being very close to completion. Lights were tested Monday. Blacktopping work was done Wednesday. It was announced Monday morning, however, that the field will open Friday when Harlan County hosts Bell County;
- An employment report from Howard noting one certified resignation and one transfer, and three classified employments with two resignations;
- Payment of claims in the aggregate amount of $1,650,462.93;
- Payment of $67,678.07 to Ash Mountain for work completed on the Harlan County High School football field;
- Payment of $622,615.30 to Green Construction Company and $592,878.05 to various vendors for work completed on the Harlan County High School football field;
- Adding the word “accredited” to employee job descriptions and job postings when high school diploma is specified.