The Mason County Commission met with School Superintendents Wednesday to discuss weight restrictions and their impact. Five of the County’s seven superintendents were able to attend the briefing and presented the Commissioners with a letter requesting school buses be exempt from load restrictions.
The Superintendents in attendance were Dana Rosenbach from the North Mason School District, Doris Bolender from the Southside School District, Jay Hambly from the Grapeview School District, Martin Brewer from the Pioneer School District, and Alex Apostle from the Shelton School District.
Student safety was one of the top reasons an exemption is being requested. The load restrictions require students to be picked up at designated locations instead of their usual bus stop. This requires students to walk some distance – in some cases miles – to get picked up. This puts children walking on the side of roads which may not have shoulders, in the dark and in icy conditions putting them at risk. Some families don’t have a car to drive their kids to a new bus stop. So in the end, those students stay home reducing attendance which could lead to reduced funding.
Another problem pointed out by the Superintendents, many of these children are on free or reduced lunch so if they don’t go to school, they don’t eat. Also, statistics show that it more difficult to get these kids to return to school once they stop going.
There are also some families with language barriers and communicating the restrictions is difficult.
Load restrictions help preserve roads during freeze/thaw events and school buses have a gross weight three times as much as what is allowed.
The County last implemented gross weight restrictions in 2010 and have discovered many of those locations the school districts agree upon then are no longer practical.
The County’s Public Works Department has granted exemptions for school buses on certain roads but there are still inconveniences for families and school districts. Public Works will meet with individual school districts to come up with the best plan for each district and each area.
Officials also plan to meet earlier each year to better plan for these types of emergencies as the Superintendents felt there was a lack of communication with them before load restrictions were put in place.
The current restrictions are in place until further notice but with the recent weather change they could be lifted next week. However, if cold weather returns, load restrictions are likely to be re-instated.