VALDOSTA -- The director of transportation for the Lowndes County School System told board members at Tuesday night's Board of Education work session the department is $61,000 over budget in regard to fuel costs.

"Fuel has been sky rocketing," director Roger Christie said.

Christie said he anticipates even more increases in fuel costs during the next couple of years because of the type of fuel the buses use.

Other increases in fuel costs may be related to fewer parents taking children to school, Christie said.

"Folks who've been taking their child to school every day may decide they want (the child) to ride the bus," Christie said.

If more children end up riding the buses, this could pose an issue for the new bus routes that the department is in the midst of drafting. Currently, the department is about half way done with drawing the new routes for the middle school students and the high school students.

Christie said he hopes to be able to send out route information by the last week of school.

To save on fuel costs, students may be made to walk farther to catch the buses.

Now, students walk about two-tenths of a mile to catch the buses, but with the new routes, students will walk three-tenths of a mile. The State of Georgia allows for as much as five-tenths of a mile.

Also, Christie said students may be made to walk out of dead-end roads to prevent the bus from having to turn around.

Christie also asked the board to decide by next week's board meeting if it wants to purchase four new buses.

Fuel wasn't the only item on the agenda to increase. The price of school lunches at the middle school level is also increasing.

Director of Nutrition Joyce Akins said the cost of lunches will increase by 10 cents for next school year because of federal cuts.

Here is the breakdown of lunch increases:

l Non educator adult: $2.25, currently pays $2

l Educator adult: $2, currently pays $1.85

l Middle school students: $1.25, currently pay $1.15

l Second student lunch: $2, currently pay $1.85

Akins said middle school students will be served as much food as the high school students.

In other news, Sharon Galloway, director of Student Support Services, said she is working to try to establish the same attendance procedures in both the city and county schools.

Board Member Fred Werthington said he wanted to make sure the attendance policy was clear on the fact that Lowndes County Schools doesn't want sick kids at school even if they have had 10 unexcused absences.

Werthington mentioned raising the amount of unexcused absences a student could have to 15, but Superintendent Steve Smith said raising the number would only increase absences.

The board also discussed asking the city to decide by May 10, the last board meeting, if children who were affected by annexation can continue in the Lowndes County School system.

In other business:

l Andrea Bridges, English Department chairwoman for Lowndes High School, discussed the summer reading list. Bridges said students and parents can choose books from a list that will be made available to them. She said she thinks this will give parents a lot of choices and keep students from forcing them to read something either they or their parents object to.

l Smith said he would like for the board members to read through the policy manual and contact him with any concerns or questions so next week the board can vote on it.

l Mike Powers, executive director of facilities and operations, said there was a change order on the D-wing at the high school. The family and consumer science lab and art room was moved out of the wing. This allows for eight classrooms to be put in that area. Some classrooms will be used for special education, and the change will allow for the math department to be put back together. The move, which costs $130,846.30, was put to a vote and approved.

To contact reporter Brianne Sweetland, please call (229) 244-3400, ext. 245.

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