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Parents complain about theme school transportation
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A mere two weeks into the 2009-2010 school year, parents are already voicing complaints to the school board.

At the Newton County Board of Education’s monthly work session Tuesday evening, several parents of students who attend the parental involvement theme schools at Fairview Elementary and Clements Middle have complaints about transportation — or lack thereof — for their students.

Students are still bused to and from school if they attend their zoned school, but the theme school is not considered a zoned school since parents choose to send their children there. Students attending the theme schools have designated drop-off and pick-up locations.

Parents attending argued that since they worked — many in Atlanta — they were unable to pick up their children in the afternoons by the time the buses dropped them off, but in literature given to parents before school, it specifically states: "Transportation of students will be provided on a limited basis."

"Transportation for the theme schools has been from community pick-up/drop-off points and designated bus stops each morning and this will continue" said Director of Public Relations for the Newton County School System Sherri Viniard. "Afternoon transportation for the theme schools has been to community pick-up points and designated bus stops. Effective Aug. 17, we are adding two additional community drop-off points in the afternoon. We will no longer provide afternoon transportation to stops other than the four community pick-up points, which are Oxford Baptist Church, old Wal-Mart on US 278, the bus parking lot adjacent to Live Oak Elementary School, Zion Baptist Church on Ga. Hwy 212. Morning routes have not changed."

NCSS School Superintendent Dr. Steve Whatley told parents in attendance that both schools offered after-school programs that would allow students to stay at the school until 6 p.m.

"Extra money?" said one parent, sounding exasperated.

"Theme schools in other counties provide no transportation," pointed out board member Cathy Dobbs.

"It’s a real inconvenience for us," said one parent, "because we work all day. A lot of kids — especially middle school students — go home by themselves and the drop-off points are too far for a lot of them to walk home. It’s just an inconvenience for parents."

The theme schools for elementary and middle grades are parental involvement theme schools and parents were required prior to the start of classes, to sign a contact agreeing to do several things, including volunteering a total of 20 hours (10 each semester) at the school, and attending more parent/teacher conferences throughout the year to discuss student progress.

Any parent or student not adhering to the contract can be taken out of the theme school and sent back to their home school at any point in the school year.