February 25, 2007

Make school-closing decisions sooner

Well, the Howard County school system has done it again, and again.

Tuesday, Feb. 13, when the weather was forecast as not only bad but getting worse as the day progressed, the school system delayed calling early school dismissal. Other systems had canceled school or were dismissing either two or three hours early. Not Howard County! They finally decided to dismiss 1 1/2 hours early, even though the two- or three-hour early dismissal would have still allowed it to count it as a full day.

How hard is it to sit inside an office or ride around in a car supplied by the county to make a decision? If their vehicle is damaged or if they are injured, the expenses will be paid by the county. Not one of these very important people has the responsibility of driving a bus in deplorable conditions and delivering students home safely.

The first two school runs were not too bad. But by the time we made the third school run, the roads were hazardous.

After completing my runs, I had to travel Route 32 from Clarksville to our lot at Interstate 70 and Route 32. There were three accidents along this road. A large truck had turned over, and two cars slid off the road. After finally getting to the lot, it took me another half-hour to clear my car of ice and snow. Then I had to drive home in extremely bad weather and traffic. I'm sure the other drivers had it just as bad or worse.

The next day, Wednesday, Feb. 14, school was closed, but we were not notified until that morning even though the weather forecast was calling for worse weather yet. We should have been notified the night before so we could put our minds to rest.

We're now looking at Thursday the 15th. The weather is still bad. Some school systems had already called for closing on that day, but not Howard County. Even when they do close, our school system is the last one to make a decision. There is no consideration for the bus drivers and their safety. Given the sophisticated and accurate weather system we now have, why can't these decisions be made the night before, not at 5 a.m. when drivers and attendants are already on the road, getting ready to start their buses and clear the windows?

This is one of many reasons it's so hard to get new drivers and to keep the current ones. It's so easy to sit behind a desk, receive great salaries and benefits and show so little respect and consideration for the Howard County school bus drivers. We can't get benefits. We get no respect. At least help us to stay safe and keep the children of Howard County safe, and do it in a timely manner. This should not be a power play.

Margaret Zaiser Woodbine

The writer drives bus No. 32 for Vickie Cubbage Inc.

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