New School Year Starts In Pickens County

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School’s in and it’s time again for backpacks, pencils (or laptops), lunchrooms and classroom after classroom of eager students ready to learn, we hope. It’s also the time of year again for school lanes packed like sardines with cars and buses dropping off students.

At 7:20 a.m. Wednesday, Stegall Drive in front of Jasper Elementary School was teeming with cars of parents dropping off students, while a Jasper police officer directed traffic, ensuring safety and order. On the opposite side of the school, buses loaded with students were also dropping off passengers, as monitors checked off each of the students names when they exited the bus, confirming those present and ensuring students arrive safely to their classrooms. This process is the same as any other Pickens County school year with two exceptions: the bus routes have changed and class hours for each school are different this year.

Pickens County public schools have a new schedule this year. Pick-up and start times are staggered, which also shift departure times. The new schedule is as follows:

Elementary schools start at 7:45 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m.
Middle schools begin at 8:10 a.m. and end at 3:25 p.m.
High school classes start at 8:10 a.m. and end at 3:10 p.m.

The move is a cost-saving measure by the Pickens County Schools Transportation Department, expected to save $120,000 without making any job cuts. Routes have been consolidated and some drivers now have two routes instead of one. FYN Reports was told maintenance expenses and high gas prices were a consideration in the arrangement.

Despite the chaos of the first week of school, Jasper Middle School Assistant Principal Brian Barnhill said that, in consideration of the new schedule, the morning drop-off went very well. In fact, he said in his 18 years in education, he’s never seen the process go so well. Typically, though, Barnhill said fewer students ride the bus in the morning, which could have accounted for the ease of the process. Barnhill expects the number of students riding the bus home this afternoon to double.

Jasper Elementary School Principal, Dr. Nonnie Weeks, corroborated Assistant Principal Barnhill’s view of the morning drop-off. Weeks said that everything went smoothly this morning, but noted that many parents drive their children to school the first day. By fall, though, Weeks expects to see more bus riders. While safety is a concern with the new bus routes, Weeks confirmed that all the previous safety measures are still in place. “There is always a parent at the bus-stop (to meet the students)…and they do drop the child (off) so they don’t have to cross the street,” she said. The principal also mentioned that “A lot of our children are dropped off at their driveway, because we’re still a small enough community that they’re able to do that,” reaffirming the safety of the transportation process. Weeks admitted one small glitch to the process, involving a shuttle for employee’s children to the High and Middle Schools, but was confident that the glitch will be worked out in time.

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