AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - Richmond County School Board continues to be under fire from parents and employees over concerns with buses. Four people were lined up to speak at the board of education meeting on April 23, but only one was here when the time came.

Sallie Thomas, the President of Local 239 School Bus Drivers Union brought a petition with at least one hundred signatures for the board to review. She said it was filled with signatures from parents in the community who want the board to check on the odors at the lot where the buses are parked. The others signed up to speak were bus drivers who had not finished their routes for the day. They were going to talk about topics of overcrowding on buses and driver pay.

None of these issues are new. They have been brought up at previous meetings, and continue to be an issue in the community. Overall, those upset say they are mainly concerned with safety and better treatment. Thomas said, “The smell, the odor in the buses, the kids getting headaches, our people out there.” Concerned parent Timothy Howard added, “There is something the board has to do. We can’t keep going to Atlanta and telling them that everything is hunky dory here in Richmond County when it is not, and that is the persona that is going on here.”

Since the drivers did not make it in time for the meeting, the board did not get to hear the concerns of driver pay or overcrowding on buses. However, FOX 54 was able to talk with the board of education’s director of communications, Kaden Jacobs, and he addressed each of the concerns.

Since the school board is hearing the same concerns over and over, they are becoming very familiar with each issue. Bus drivers are unhappy with their treatment and work conditions and parents are concerned about the safety of their children. Drivers say there isn’t enough room on the buses, leading to overcrowding, and that they’re not being paid enough.

Addressing those issues, the school board says there has been no administrator complaints about overcrowding and that pay has increased in the past year. One main concern that everyone seems to be fired up about is the bus parking lot on Mike Padgett Hwy. Complaints of chemicals and odors releasing from the ground that are supposedly making not only the drivers sick, but kids as well.

The school board says the Department of Health has been out to the site clearing it of any dangers and says the smell comes from Phinizy Swamp and the waste water treatment plant nearby.

Kaden Jacobs, Director of Communications with Richmond County School System said, “We’re never going to put our students or employees at risk. When concerns are brought up, we look into them. I have disproved most of them, I think almost all of them at this point. So, we’re just going to continue to do what we need to to take care of students.”

The Board of Education has been dealing with complaints of this nature for years. Back in 2005, they were taken to court and ordered to have a transport council made. Tuesday night, they were asked to recreate that council. We will be waiting to hear what Dr. Pringle and the Board decide on that.

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