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Ombudsman bus trouble-free
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Newton County School System officials say things are running smoothly so far regarding Ombudsman transportation.

At a July meeting, the Board of Education approved having only one bus stop location, at Jack Neely Road, for picking up and dropping off students who needed transportation to the alternative school Ombudsman’s two Newton locations. The board also, after reported behavioral problems, voted to add a monitor to the Ombudsman bus.

The school system bus previously had picked up Ombudsman students at four locations — the old Walmart at U.S. Highway 278; the Jack Neely Road stop; the parking lot at Alcovy High School; and Denny Dobbs Park on Ga. Highway 212. However, the small numbers of students being picked up from the various locations caused the BOE and school system to look into eliminating transportation for the alternative school.

Craig Lockhart, deputy superintendent of schools, reported during the BOE’S work session Tuesday that, as of Aug. 7, no problems have occurred on the bus that provides transportation to Ombudsman.

In addition, Lockhart said, no discipline problems have been reported at Ombudsman’s two locations — Ombudsman East and Ombudsman West. He said so far, 28 students are enrolled at the Ombudsman East and 19 students are enrolled at the Ombudsman West location, but intakes are still taking place.

"It is anticipated that enrollment will be higher by the end of the week," he said. "The bus driver has had no more than five students at a time on the bus, and two students on the middle-school route."

In other business, the Board of Education approved Flexible Learning Program plans for Live Oak and West Newton elementary schools, and the two schools will soon offer free after-school programs for some students.

According to information from school officials, as a requirement of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, under Title I, schools identified as having "Priority" and/or "Focus" status must develop and implement Flexible Learning Programs for the 2013-14 school year.

A "Focus School" is a Title I school that is among the 10 percent of state schools with the largest within-school gaps between the highest performing students and lowest performing students. At the high-school level, the measurement is the largest within-school gaps in graduation rates.

Live Oak and West Newton are designated as Focus Schools. They are required to develop Flexible Learning Programs to offer additional academic services beyond normal school hours in subject areas of needed student improvement.

Live Oak Elementary will offer a free after-school science program on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., and West Newton Elementary will offer a free math program Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.

Enrollment letters and applications will be sent to all "Focus School" parents next week. All applications for enrollment are due no later than Sept. 6.