School Board votes to buy new bus radios

WOODSTOCK — At a Shenandoah County Public Schools meeting Tuesday, School Board members voted to purchase a school bus communications system.

The new system will replace the district’s current one, which was described in meeting materials as outdated and increasingly difficult to repair.

The system proposed by Clear Communications will cost the district $210,307 — a total Board Chairman Richard L. Koontz Jr. said was whittled down from a higher projection by about $80,000.

“It’s good to see,” Koontz said. “I mean, that’s quite a savings.”

The money will come out of the $797,788 in capital improvement funds appropriated by the county for the 2015 fiscal year.

The communications system will have GPS capabilities so division personnel will know where buses are along the route without having to radio bus drivers, a bonus that Superintendent Jeremy Raley said will better ensure the safety of students.

The replacement of the bus radio system came into question last winter after various problems the school system had contacting buses. Last fall, a bus with a faulty radio broke down near Orkney Springs in an area without cell service, forcing the driver to leave students on the bus with an aide and walk to the closest home where he could phone the district transportation department for help.

The district plans to replace the radios shortly after funds become available on July 1.

Speaking on behalf of a change to the district school schedule for the 2015 fiscal year, Joyce Gary, chair of the Shenandoah County Electoral Board, addressed the board on an informational agenda item to consider a memorandum that would result in schools closing on Election Day, Nov. 3.

The board had previously scheduled classes that day and on Tuesday discussed the problem of accommodating polling locations, in particular at Strasburg High School and Central High School, in the event of sporting events that evening.

Gary pointed out that the memorandum simply allows the electoral board to hold elections in those locations legally, without accounting for or attempting to solve problems that might affect the schools, the students or the school calendar.

The board agreed to wait until its next meeting to discuss whether or not to accept the memorandum as offered and its possible outcomes, such as deciding to cancel classes on Nov. 3. The board will also consider if it might suggest alternate locations for polls in future academic years.

At its next meeting, the board also plans to revisit a discussion on pursuing a facility evaluation on school population and capacity. The board has received 13 responses to its request for a proposal for an evaluation that will offer solutions to capacity issues in the school division.

The board expects to whittle down the list by its next meeting.

The School Board will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. June 24 in the School Board Office training room at 660 N. Main St., Woodstock.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com