Schools given more time to comply with law that could lead to longer bus trips

August 15, 2014 at 9:56 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

St. Charles Parish Public Schools will have more time to comply with a new law that prevents students from crossing the street to enter or exit a school bus. Officials have said the law could increase the time it takes some bus drivers to complete their routes.

The law, Act 654, does not permit students to cross any lanes of traffic to reach their bus stop and prevents bus drivers from picking up or dropping off children while the bus is in a lane of traffic.

The law was passed after a 6-year-old New Orleans boy was fatally killed by a passing motorist while crossing the road to his school bus stop in February. It went into effect on Aug. 1, but the Attorney General’s Office agreed that schools need more time to plan for the change.

According to a recent opinion issued by that office, schools should begin the process of complying with the new law, but because there is no specified compliance date included with Act 654, the process should be “completed by each school district within a reasonable time.”

If schools were forced to enact the law now, some buses would have to go all the way down a street to drop off and pick up students on the right side of the road before turning around and going back down the same street to pick up or drop off students on the other side of the road.

“There is a possibility that it would extend the time for some students on some buses,” Pat O’Malley, administrator of ancillary services for St. Charles Parish Public Schools, said.

He added that the new law is expected to increase transportation costs and could lead to the purchase of additional buses by the school system.

The school system already has measures in place to avoid a dangerous accident on heavily-traveled streets, which the district refers to as “no cross streets.”

“These are streets with a steady flow of traffic that students are not allowed to cross going to or from a bus stop,” O’Malley said. “We will continue to identify and review existing policies related to bus transportation and continue efforts to ensure the overall safety of all students at all times.”

Now every road in the parish becomes a no cross street, but the school system will have adequate time to plan for the new changes.

“The attorney general’s opinion indicates that each district will be allowed a reasonable amount of time to draft policy required by Act 654. The benefit of being allowed a ‘reasonable’ amount of time to evaluate the safety, logistical and fiscal factors is that it allows us to make changes that result in improvement,” O’Malley said. “Reasonable time for us means time to get it right.”

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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