JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - In just a few short days the big yellow buses will begin to roll across Region 8. But when the doors swing shut, Who's watching your kids and keeping them safe?
They call them bus monitors and in these tough economic times they are almost a luxury on a regular school bus and Federally mandated on a special needs bus.
A security camera on a bus is good but a warm body backing you up is even better.
"They really need someone to protect them and to keep things from escalating."
Gwyn Hughes's comment is twofold, help for the students and help for the drivers.
Hughes is a retired teacher, now a part time bus driver. At one time Jonesboro had monitors on their buses.
"When we had grant money and we started the SRO program we had bus monitors for a couple of years and I actually started out as a monitor."
But that was then and this is now. Transportation Supervisor Steven Whitehurst says busing in Jonesboro has grown.
"We actually run 121 routes, we use 43 buses to run those routes."
Mrs. Hughes bus and 5 others have monitors on board because they are special needs buses. But a lot of the regular drivers say they would like to have them too.
Whitehurst, "Anytime you put an extra adult in a situation with this many students would definitely be a help.The drivers would all love to have monitors. The thing is in driving a bus you've got your back to the students and you're concentrating on the city traffic and other drivers and other drivers around you and it's real hard to concentrate on that and the students that are causing a problem behind you."
Financially it could be a real burden on a district. Subtracting the 6 special needs buses which are Federally mandated have to have a monitor there are still 37 buses without them. And it boils down to money, a lot of money.
Whitehurst says monitors start out at 8.60 an hour, figuring 37 people for maybe 4 hours a day for 178 days it adds up.
But again maybe that extra set of eyes could prevent an accident resulting in injuries or worse like the recent twin fatal school bus accident outside St. Louis.
Whitehurst, "That split second that the driver's looking up in the mirror to see why that student is screaming might be the split second that the car in front of them slams on the brakes."
And just so you know, figuring 36 more monitors at 8.60 an hour for 4 hours a day for 178 days.
It adds up to about a quarter of a million dollars.