A study by the Bryan County school system on whether it should stop providing bus transportation to day-care providers isn’t going over well with some who rely on that transportation.
The issue arose during the Bryan County Board of Education’s March 26 meeting at Lanier Primary when Audrey Singleton, owner of Richmond Hill Montessori Preschool, presented the board with petitions from parents after questioning the study.
“I represent the hundreds of children and parents affected by the decision being made around bus transportation,” Singleton said, before noting that, as a resident, taxpayer and business owner, she couldn’t support such a plan.
“Is it the county’s goal to go into business for before- and after-school care, I have to ask,” she said. “Working, tax-paying families rely on their chosen before- and after-school child-care providers. Does the Board of Education not support and acknowledge these services are already being supported through private businesses paying tax dollars?”
Singleton and other day-care providers learned of the study in a March 18 letter from Bryan County Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher. It explained that the system was reviewing whether it could continue to provide bus transportation to and from school for day-care providers.
The letter notes that the opening of McAllister Elementary, the “significant student growth in South Bryan” and a “serious shortage of school-bus drivers, coupled with the additional routes imposes a significant hardship on the number of personnel available to transport children.”
Bryan County currently provides bus transportation “to and from our schools to your place of business and/or program,” the letter says. “Now that Bryan County Schools will have two elementary attendance areas, we are concerned about the financial feasibility of continuing this practice.”
Singleton wasn’t the only one to speak out against the study. Some parents did, including Jan Thomas.
Thomas, who has three children, said she is a military wife who has lived in Richmond Hill for five years.
“Although I’m not from Richmond Hill, I fell in love with it and I do plan on staying here,” she told the school board. “I do consider it my home.”
Thomas said her husband’s schedule requires him to be on Fort Stewart by 6 a.m. or earlier, and he also is subject to deployment, which leaves her to take care of her children alone while she also works.
“Given the sacrifices we both make to protect you and your family every day, and that Richmond Hill has always taken pride that it’s a military-supportive community, the decision to no longer transport children from my chosen before- and after-school provider certainly does not reflect support to the military families who chose what centers they want to use,” she told board members.
After Singleton and parents spoke out against the study, Brooksher said the system hasn’t made any decisions yet.
“The letter said we’re studying the feasibility. It does not say a decision has been made,” he told them. “We’re continuing to analyze the cost to the school system. There’s nothing conclusive at this point, but I do appreciate the feedback. It helps as we all work together to do what’s best for the school system as a whole and the community we serve.”
It’s unclear how much the school board spends to transport kids to private before- and after-school day-care providers in South Bryan. The system has been short of bus drivers in recent years, officials say.