Lack of bus driver kept team from traveling; officials say situation an 'isolated event'

Hopkins County School bus drops students off at West Broadway Elementary School Thursday afternoon.

New procedures have been put into place after a middle school junior varsity developmental soccer game was canceled due to a bus driver not volunteering for the trip, said Hopkins County Board of Education Superintendent Deanna Ashby.

"This was an isolated event," said Ashby. "I really don't think that it will happen again."

The school board was not aware that a bus driver had not volunteered for Tuesday night's game, said Ashby.

"We were not aware of it until after it had occurred. Had we realized, we maybe could have intervened," she said. "But, since it has happened, we have put some additional procedures and protocols in place. I would be surprised if this ever happens again."

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The additional checks and balances implemented now call for trip selections to come directly through Ashby, Assistant Superintendent Marty Cline and Director of Secondary Education and Athletics Christian Klaas.

"We now have three additional sets of eyes on it," said Ashby. "At the start of this week, we had two events that the routes were not covered. As of this morning, both have been picked up."

Because of the new procedures, Klaas said they have opened up a more comprehensive dialogue between the high schools, middle school teams, coaches, athletic directors and principals.

"We want to ensure that they are communicating with us, the three of us, or the transportation staff earlier than 3 p.m. on the day they are supposed to leave, so they won't worry about who their driver is or when the driver is coming," he said.

One complaint that was issued from the cancelation was why students must ride the bus to an athletic event. Ashby said that it is a school board policy for the district.

"The policy says our students have to ride the bus to the event," she said. "There would be some schools or some programs that would suffer because not every child has that ride to and from the game. And we never ever want it to be a deterrent for any of our children not to be able to participate because they don't have a ride."

Klass, who has coached baseball, basketball and golf, said as a coach he wants to keep everybody in the same place and ready to go.

"We can't guarantee that every student-athlete would have arrived or would have a parent that came to that game," he said. "We have many programs that the games are drop-off only and the parents transport home every time. Our football teams, for example, they all ride the buses home because they are responsible for putting away their equipment."

There is no flexibility on this policy, said Cline.

"Our policy indicates that our middle schools in our district must be transported," he said. "There's no flexibility for our middle schools."

The local school district has been dealing with a shortage of bus drivers, but Ashby said that was not a factor in this instance.

"Our students have not been affected by the shortage because all students being transported to and from school are our priority," she said. "The transportation department revises the plan daily based on if there is a driver sick or if there is a field trip during the middle of the day. It's a constant, fluid process.

Hopkins County currently employs 56 drivers, six to seven sub drivers who work two to four days a week, all of which service 44 regular routes, 14 special needs routs and 15 preschool routes, according to Ashby. The board is offering programs for coaches and teachers to become drivers, as well. Applications are always being accepted, she said.

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