Limited bus routes have been announced for Elkin City Schools, which can be used in cases where the main roads are passable during inclement weather and school can be held with the exception of a few side roads where bus turnarounds and travel may not be manageable.
Letters were sent home with children who ride the system’s buses Feb. 3 informing them which roads will be affected if the school system does decide during bad weather to use the limited routes, explained Lisa Pendry, transportation director for Elkin City Schools and assistant principal at Elkin High School.
“The idea is to avoid gravel roads or difficult turnarounds like dead-end roads and cul-de-sacs which are hard to turn around in any way,” said Pendry of how decisions were made. “Historically we have some roads that remain in bad conditions for longer periods of time because they are shady, so we included those as well.”
She said as safety concerns arise, the list may change.
“Our bus drivers are extremely conscience, and if they run into a situation where they are uncomfortable they’ll let us know. So they exercise good caution,” she said.
Roads affected and their alternate pick-up spot when it is announced limited routes will be used include Edgewood with pick-up at West Main; Elkin Wildlife with pick-up at CC Camp/N.C. 268; Forest Hills at Old Hwy. 268; Fremont Lane at CC Camp/N.C. 268; Harris at Elk Spur; Lapis at Old Quarry; Logun at U.S. 21; Luxbury at Old Quarry; bottom part of Mountain View at Old Quarry; top part of Mountain View at Oak Grove; Pleasant Hill Road at N.C. 268; Regal at Regal and Noah Hayes intersection; South Hemlock at Poplar Springs; Sonata at Old Hwy. 268; South Street at Elk Spur; Spaulding at Old Quarry; Sunset at Elk Spur; West Forest at U.S. 21; West Highland at corner of West Highland and Sloop; West Elkin Baptist Church at Elk Spur; and Yorkfield at corner of Yorkfield and Carter Mill.
The list is available two ways on the school system’s website, both by bus number and by road name, Pendry explained.
The limited routes will affect about 30 to 40 students, she said. “We want to make it as convenient as possible. When we think of delaying or closing school, it is not just about the safety of the bus, but also student drivers,” Pendry added.
“These will not require very long walks, and it helps us get back to class maybe a little earlier than waiting on everything to be clear,” she said.
She also said if roads are worse than anticipated, routes could change for the sake of student safety.
Pendry said in her letter, “Our goal is to return students to school as early and safely as possible.”
Bus drivers recognized this week
The system’s eight bus drivers — Bob Norton, B.D. Reece, Anthony Shropshire, Larry Powell, Danyelle Hampton, Earl Mounce, Amanda Hurt and Vickie Mendenhall — were honored this week with special breakfasts, gifts from students and staff. In the hallway near the entrance of Elkin Elementary School is a bulletin board featuring pictures of each driver and fun facts like where they went to school, their favorite hobby, food and sports team and a quote about what they enjoy about being a bus driver.
“Love the Bus Week is a national program designed to recognize the work drivers do in safely transporting students to and from school,” explained Pendry. “All of the schools have some treats planned for the drivers.
“We do have an outstanding group of drivers. They have wonderful attendance,” she said, noting how hard it is to find a replacement if a driver is unable to make it one morning. “They are very dependable and have great relationships with the students.
“They are the first warm face the kids see in the morning, and safety is their utmost concern.”
A story about Love the Bus Week can be found on the front page of the Elkin City Schools’ website, Pendry reported.
Part of that safety the drivers focus on includes a new North Carolina law which requires them to use hand signals to direct students who have to cross in front of the bus on when it’s safe to do so, as well as watching out for drivers who violate stop arm laws.
“When a student is crossing the road, there is a universal signal drivers now use,” explained Pendry of the new law. “The student is to look at the driver and the driver holds up his or her hand to signal stop, and then when the driver deems it’s safe, he gives a thumbs up and points in the direction to cross when it’s time to go.”
This new hand signal law is to be used both getting on and off the bus, if the student has to cross the road.
She said another concern is the number of people who drive “right past the stop arm.”
“We’ve had several violations this year,” she said of drivers who were cited.
A majority of the violations occur on North Bridge Street, Pendry explained, south of the intersection with CC Camp Road/N.C. 268 where there is one lane in each direction and a center turn lane. Pendry said traffic in all directions must stop on this stretch of road when a stop arm is being used.
“No matter how many lanes there are, if you are traveling in the same direction of the bus, you must stop,” advised Pendry. “If there are five lanes, or four lanes with a median, the people meeting the bus do not have to stop.”
While most of the violations this year have been on North Bridge Street, she said there have been three right in front of the high school on Elk Spur Street.
“Our violators have been people coming toward the bus. We have people claim they didn’t see the bus, and one person claimed they didn’t see the stop arm. They just aren’t paying attention. Any time there is a bus in the area, people need to be alert and prepared to stop,” she said.
“There’s nothing so important that it takes precedent over a child’s life. People have got to be aware,” Pendry said.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.