Bus safety coordinator position eliminated from Columbia Public Schools

Monday, August 5, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — This year, Columbia Public School students will go back to learning bus safety from their classroom teachers rather than from a district-wide coordinator. 

The bus safety coordinator position was added last fall because of complaints the school district had received about student behavior from bus drivers, district spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said at the time. 

After a trial period, the district decided it would be better to have the curriculum taught directly by the teachers already in classrooms rather than have one person traveling to all the schools, Baumstark said Friday.

Tina DeClue, the first and only person to hold the bus safety coordinator job, accepted a position with the city sometime earlier this year, Baumstark said.

This year, the $50,000 allocated for that position will be used to help fund the Walking School Bus program operated by the PedNet Coalition, Peter Stiepleman, assistant superintendent of elementary education, wrote in an email. 

The position was a one-year pilot, and when DeClue found another position, they looked at other ways to deliver bus safety, Baumstark said.

"It was something that we tried, and spent at least a semester doing it, and then we thought we could look at a different delivery model to encourage getting to school safely," she said.

Now the funds will be used to help get kids to school by walking. It is the first time that school district money will be used to fund the Walking School Bus, Stiepleman said.

Currently, all that the Columbia School Board has approved for program use are $800 stipends for up to 20 teachers who serve as walkers and liaisons for the Walking School Bus, Stiepleman said. But district plans to spend the full $50,000 throughout the year on the program, he said.

"The stipends for walking leaders have been approved by the board, but the official contract (for the rest of the money) has not yet been submitted to the board," Stiepleman said.

He said the school district also plans to help assist PedNet Coalition in securing donations from other partners who promote healthy lifestyles. 

The program is set for a year, Stiepleman said. Afterward, the school board will review the progress and decide where the program will head in the future, he said.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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