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Bus donations to help Gainesville schools

POSTED: April 23, 2014 12:29 a.m.

Gainesville Middle School Principal Ken Martin has a lot of use for an extra school bus.

“Obviously, from an athletic standpoint, some of our athletic teams may be smaller in number,” he said. “Maybe golf, maybe cross-country or tennis. Softball could use the small bus.

“It also would be good in helping transport in between schools, from the middle school to the high school.”

Thanks to a donation from Ninth District Opportunity, some alleviation for those middle school programs is now a possibility.

The nonprofit gave two of its buses to Gainesville City Schools, adding to two the system had purchased from Ninth District last year at $3,000.

The herd of small buses has earned it the moniker of Elephant Express.

“We have to keep them yellow,” Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said. “But our board members want to put as many elephants on there — red ones — as is allowable by law.”

The fleet of four will be used for a variety of tasks, beyond typical bus routes.

“We currently have two (small) buses,” Transportation Director Jerry Castleberry said. “One bus goes to (the) Spout Springs (area) twice a day, and the other one is used for a special education morning route.

“The high school (also) uses it for golf and I think the tennis team has used it some. There’s a need for it.”

The school system also uses one of the buses to transport two deaf students weekly to the Georgia School for the Deaf in Cave Spring.

Castleberry said at the Monday school board meeting that using the small, low-passenger buses helps save on costs.

“I did an evaluation — we sent a bus down to Macon using the small bus as opposed to using one of our regular buses,” he said. “We saved about $110 on that one trip, so there are substantial savings.”

“Is that the gas savings?” Board Chairwoman Maria Calkins asked.

“That’s the overall savings,” Castleberry said. “The biggest comes from the gas.”

There’s a need for the additional small buses, he said, especially at the middle- and high-school level.

“Field trips would be one use,” Martin said. “Also, some of our mentoring groups, our at-risk boys or girls, would be able to go to some of our local businesses and life-skill training. That’s some of the things that we do with our students with disabilities as well as our at-risk group.”

Also, he said sometimes parents provide transportation for smaller groups, like academic bowl competitions. With a small bus available, it will help alleviate that strain.

“We are very grateful,” Dyer said. “We recognize that the Ninth District serves many of the same families that we do, so by providing more resources for us, they’re helping the families they serve as well.”


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