WESTMINSTER — The new school year brought a turnover in teachers at the Carroll County Education Center. Unfortunately, the turnover included teachers who were licensed to drive the school's buses.
But some county school bus drivers have been volunteering to transport special educationstudents to out-of-class lessons and field trips.
"It's so nice to have people come forward like this," said Robin L. Farinholt, school principal. "We have some real generous people here."
At least one of the school's 10 homerooms ventures outside the building for classroom instruction each week. In the past, teacherswho were licensed to drive buses have taken the wheel on trips.
But that posed a problem. With teachers driving, other volunteers wereneeded to supervise children and, in some cases, provide instructionrelated to the field trip or assignment, Farinholt said.
The school serves 69 students, who range in age from 2 to 21 years. They havecognitive, social or physical impairments that impede their development and learning in traditional setting.
On an out-of-classroom lesson, students learn life skills. For example, Farinholt said, they might travel to a grocery store to practice shopping and social and communication skills.
Instruction is often needed on the bus to provide background on assignments or point out landmarks on field trips, Farinholt said. Volunteer bus drivers helped classroom teachers instruct, she said.
Charles Hinerman of Eldersburg, a volunteer bus driver for three years, said, "We know the children, and we're used to handing them and equipment."
Faye Miller of New Windsor also volunteers several hours a week to help transport students. "I love the kids and it helps the teachers out," she said. "They get to spend more time with the kids by having me or someone else driving."
"With theloss of teachers who drive, we've been doing more volunteering," sheadded. "There's been a lot more around the Christmas season -- goingto malls for shopping and things like that."
Hinerman said he predicts the situation will be even tougher in the future with state andlocal budget constraints and would like to see more people offering to volunteer.
"What I'd like to see them have is a little bit of exposure," he said. "Money is tight, and things are just going to get tougher. Special education is probably one of the things that is going to get hurt. These children are multihandicapped and have multiple problems."