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BOE takes a closer look at bus seat belts

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

Seat belts on buses have been a prevalent discussion throughout the state of Tennessee after the deadly bus accident in Chattanooga on November 21.

The Washington County Board of Education continued that discussion during their Thursday night meeting with a look at different study perspectives.

One of those perspectives came from board member Phillip McLain who recalled a report brought to light by a Tennessee School Board Association member who had mentioned a study conducted by the University of Alabama. The report offered a different way in which to address the safety of school buses.

“Their report at that time said that the money for seat belts would be better spent on educating people about buses. Getting on, getting off — the whole process,” McClain said. “But it’s my belief with what happened in Chattanooga, we’re gonna see some changes.”

Because of the possibility of an upcoming state mandate requiring seat belts on all school buses, board member Todd Ganger suggested letting the state’s upcoming decision coincide with the $535, 220 purchase of the seven 66-passenger buses.

“The buses we have are safe,” Ganger said. “I think if we let the legislation play itself out, if they do go to mandate, it’ll be all new buses going forward. I think if we buy these buses now, we’re fine. But if we go ahead and start putting seat belts on them now, then we’ve committed ourselves to doing every new purchase.”

Though the board gave the go ahead on ordering these new school buses, the same couldn’t be said about a resolution brought to discussion by board member Annette Buchanan.

The proposal is in opposition of using Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program testing data for teacher evaluations for the 2016-2017 school year.

Following the issues with last school year’s testing delay and eventual termination of the test for students grades 3-8, Nashville and Knoxville have both already adopted this proposal though the general assembly is yet to make a decision. However, Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton expressed concern regarding the message the agreement to this proposal might send to stakeholders, staff and students.

“I think it’s important the message that our community sends about accountability,” Halliburton said. “We’re at a time when we’re trying to increase the rigor in our classrooms and that’s what the message has been about in the Washington Way.”

“I have faith in our teachers,” Halliburton said. “I would put our talented teachers up against any assessment. So I think we have to be careful about the message we are sending to the community.”

Though the proposal was tabled in order for the members of the board to research and meditate on their decisions regarding the resolution, the decision on accepting Tom Burleson from Burleson Construction as the project manager for the Boones Creek K-8 school was quickly decided.

The board decided to go with Burleson Construction of Johnson City over Hewlett Spencer out of Nashville for the project.