The superintendent for Pickens County schools reported Wednesday evening that the first day of class had gone “mostly smooth” as students reported back with new start times and bus routes.
“The system, as a whole began smoothly, there were a few snafus which we are addressing,” Dr. Ben Desper said.
He said the staggered start times (the elementary, middle and high schools all start and end at different times) got high marks from most people he spoke with. The gap in start and end times appears to have improved traffic throughout the area.
The central office had taken several complaints about the new transportation system, which the superintendent said was to be expected with such a massive change.
There were problems with some stops, but some of the calls were from people upset over the change in general, he said. However the days when the school buses can efficiently offer door-to-door service had to end due to financial reasons. Now the county uses centralized stops which students must walk to and from and some buses run more than one route for different campuses. The change is expected to save $120,000 this year.
The central school office had staff on hand late into the day Wednesday to handle calls from parents over the bus routes. Desper said they will make further changes as necessary.
“We have made several changes in stops already and we’ll be making other changes all through the school year,” he said. He said the ride times would improve as drivers and riders get coordinated with exactly where the bus would stop and drop off.
The first day of this year saw 4,286 students report, an enrollment down 119 from the first day of the previous shool year. “This may or may not mean anything,” the superintendent said. He said students will continue to filter in and that number may change over the next week. He said they had braced for a higher first day enrollment based on a much larger number of students who came to an early enrollment for transfer students.
The superintendent said if the first day numbers hold, there will not be any need to shift teachers to reduce overcrowded classrooms at any school. “There are a couple of classes we are watching,” he said. Last year, some teachers were re-assigned and classes re-configured to relieve overcrowding in certain areas.