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County Approves Bus Funds for Catholic School Students

The Campbell County Fiscal Court voted last month to approve $329,144.88 for bus services at the Campbell County Board of Education - and that upset one county commissioner.

Judge/Executive Steve Pendery explained that this issue had been tabled since October because there was a problem between the board of education and the parochial schools working out pick-ups for students along AA Highway.   

Pendery assumed from his information that everyone was happy, and that there was peace.

"Everybody is not happy, and there is no peace," said Commissioner Charlie Coleman. "Campbell County High School will not pick up any students who live on the east side of the AA highway. And they are asking for almost $80,000 more than last year in additional money!"

Pendery said he thought as of the last conversation Campbell County High School was working with the parochial schools to find a central location where the bus could pick up the students. Coleman said they did work out a common place, but it was on the west side of the AA highway.

"The solution they came up with was to have a meeting place on the west side of the highway," said Nicole Herrmann, principal at Sts. Peter and Paul. "In essence, though, it doesn't completely solve the problem, because if the parents have to drive that far to the meeting place they might as well take their children all the way to school. I understand the issue. It is the language in the contract. I wish we had bus service."

The main issue seems to be between Sts. Peter and Paul and the bus service.

The school is located in the small county community of California and it is not on the regular route for the Campbell County school buses. Herrmann said that when A.J. Jolly School closed, Campbell Ridge School became the southernmost school on the bus route, and buses could no longer pick up beyond that point.

Sts. Peter and Paul was south of that.

The Catholic school then bought its own bus and used volunteer drivers with some reimbursement from the fiscal court. But, when the costs increased, Sts. Peter and Paul abandoned its own bus.

"Campbell County (Schools)'s position is that they don't pick up any students that are not on their routes," said County finance director Marie Schenkel. 

Herrmann said that the students who needed the bus service lived on the east side of AA Highway and are about fifteen of the school's 108 student population.

"I'm going to vote for this, because I don't want the other parochial kids put in the middle," Coleman said. "But it disappoints me that we are going to give them more tax dollars. I mean, the parochial kids' parents, they pay taxes too."

SchenkeI mentioned that the people who control the bus schedules have to think about safety, route miles, and route time. She also said that the money has been reimbursed at least 95 percent the last two years in a row.

Coleman didn't think that would happen this year, saying he listened to the Governor's recent speech.

"They'll accept it," Coleman said of the parochial schools, especially Sts. Peter and Paul. "They'll accept it because they have no choice. It is what it is.

"I would like to know, what is their justification for the increase of almost $80,000?"

Schenkel explained that the board of education reported an increase in parochial students transported, thus the increase.

The issue passed but Pendery stated firmly that he was going to look into the problem himself. He said he would start by contacting Principal Herrmann.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor