North Spencer bus routes change in response to new legislation

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Penalties for stop-arm violations increased

By The Staff

LINCOLN CITY – A new state law has forced many bus routes for the North Spencer School District to change for the coming fall semester. The legislation seeks to prevent children from crossing rural highways to get on or off the school bus. Under the law, bus drivers are required to pick up or drop off elementary school students on the right-hand side of the roadway unless there are no other safe alternatives.

While this has required a great deal of adaptation for many school districts across the state, North Spencer has managed to more or less abide by these new requirements with a new series of bus routes prepared by Transportation Director Marc Schum. Nevertheless, the process of figuring out how to ensure a bus would be traveling in the right direction on any given road at particular times was a significant undertaking, especially with the resumption of school looming.

Schum explained that one saving grace for the district was that the law only affected rural state highways, as opposed to county roads. This ultimately left Schum with one pick up in the Lamar area that could not be rectified given the bus schedule and spacing of necessary pickups. However, the law does allow student pickups requiring a road crossing if there are no safe alternatives.

Given the nature of the dilemma, Schum brought the matter before the school board for their approval. He noted that the stretch of State Road 245 in question is very straight and easily visible from both directions, minimizing risk. The school board ultimately approved this exception.

Superintendent Dan Scherry thanked Schum for carefully reworking so many bus routes to abide by the new law on relatively short notice. He was surprised that there was only one pickup spot that could not be rectified.

“It’s pretty impressive that you were able to do that,” said Scherry.

Another measure in the legislation likely to impact operations at North Spencer schools is a requirement for any faculty member operating a white school bus for student transportation to and from home to be a licensed bus driver. This requirement does not include transportation to sporting events or other extracurricular activities.

Scherry noted that in the past, many teachers have used these buses to help pick up a student that missed their regular bus stop, or take them home in the event of sickness or emergency. Under the new law, faculty could only do this after a great deal more training, which no teachers or staff members outside of current bus drivers currently possess.

The law will also bring harsher penalties against those who pass school buses while the “stop arm” is out. If injury isn’t involved, these penalties can range from paying a fine to the suspension of a driver’s license. If injury or death occurs, the individual will face a level six felony.

In other business at the July 22 meeting of the board, Scherry offered congratulations to Ethan Roos, who was elected governor at Hoosier Boys State over the summer. He also congratulated Mason Sandage, who finished second in the nation for motorcycle repair.