UPDATE: Houston schools to equip bus stop arms with cameras

jmink@macon.comOctober 16, 2012 

PERRY -- Within the next month, some Houston County school buses will be able to photograph drivers who do not stop as children enter and exit the bus.

After delaying action three times, the Houston County school board on Tuesday unanimously approved equipping school bus stop arms with cameras, which will take video images and photographs of people who violate the school bus stop arm.

“Our No. 1 priority is student safety,” Superintendent Robin Hines said after the meeting. “It’s about keeping students safe.”

The cameras will be installed in 20 buses at no cost to the school district, officials say. Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions will cover the installation and maintenance of the cameras, and revenue from violator fees will be split between the company, Houston County schools and the Houston County Sheriff’s Office.

Approval of the project was delayed because officials were reviewing language within the contracts to make sure it was correct, Hines said. Several other Georgia school districts are taking part in the program, and while the district identified the 20 busiest bus routes for the cameras, it’s possible more of the district’s 200 buses will get cameras in the future, said Stephen Thublin, assistant superintendent for finance and business operations.

“We’ve had so many instances of motorists driving around parked school buses,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is educate motorists.”

In fact, the district avoided a tragedy Tuesday morning when a driver ran a bus stop arm as a child was preparing to cross the street. The bus driver signaled for the child to stop, keeping the student from running in front of the vehicle, said Frank Scott, district transportation director.

Drivers ignore bus stop arms an estimated 61 times a day in Houston County -- a number that was derived from a statewide survey, which asked bus drivers to record each time someone violated the stop arm, Thublin said.

After the cameras are installed, “we hope we’ll start to see those numbers go down,” Scott said.

Also at the meeting, the board approved Austell-based Southern Architects & Engineers to complete design work for renovations to McConnell-Talbert Stadium in Warner Robins. Renovations are expected to cost $2 million to $3 million.

Additionally, the board moved forward with renovations for gymnasiums in six elementary schools. Several schools will receive new heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

Charter schools amendment

As election day draws near, the Houston County school board is urging voters to not support an amendment that would allow the state to open charter schools without the consent of local school boards.

The school board unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday that asks the state legislature to adequately fund and support public education and encourages citizens to vote against the amendment as part of House Resolution 1162.

Some parents previously told The Telegraph that they support the amendment because it would give parents more options when choosing a school for their children.

Hines, who has been a vocal opponent of the amendment, said Tuesday that it would pave the way for the state to dole out money to charter schools, which would “divert more funds away from public education,” he said.

“This is important,” he said about the upcoming vote. “It could be a game changer.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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