Earlier pickup time has mother concerned

by: Craig Lucie Updated:

HENRY COUNTY, Ga. —

A parent believes earlier pickup times for Henry County School bus routes will adversely affect her autistic child's learning process.

Last year, his pickup time was about 7:15 a.m.

This year it was moved to between 6 and 6:10 a.m.

Melita Friar said her 9-year-old son Zachary struggles to maintain focus in school and the earlier pickup time could have a negative impact on his efforts.

"He will be on the bus for at least an hour and then be at school at least 45 minutes to an hour before school starts," she said. "I worry about his learning capabilities. I worry about him being tired and overworked and not doing the best he can."

Friar also said catching the bus so early will create a large gap between the first and second meals of the day.

"This is really a long tough day for any child," she said. "They are being picked up two hours before school which means getting up at 5 a.m., having breakfast around 5:30 in the morning and him possibly not having lunch until 11:30 or noon."

Friar acknowledged that she could drive him to school, but Zachary asked to ride the bus.

"He wanted to ride the school bus and be like every other child. Those were his words," she said.

Channel 2 Action News contacted Henry County Schools and a spokesman released a statement.

"There have been no cuts to our transportation department. In an effort to curb rising costs and provide for a more efficient department, we moved to a cost-neutral, three-tier bus routing system last school year to transport approximately 24,000 students, or 60 percent of our student population. This routing system is very similar to what other districts in the Metro Atlanta area utilize.
The three-tier system provides separate pickup times and schedules for each of the three school levels based on bell schedules, and we have seen it reduce the number discipline problems and provide for optimum passenger capacity versus maximum passenger capacity. New district-wide elementary school starting times of 7:45 a.m. have resulted in some buses, particularly those transporting students across attendance lines, starting their schedules shortly after 6:00 a.m. We have found that our district is not alone when it comes to the challenges of minimizing riding time for our students, and along with safety it remains one of our priorities for riders."