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Hall school board may make changes to 3 districts
Board also is pursuing litigation over bus repairs
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Adjusting precincts for Hall County Schools Board of Education is as easy as one, two, three.

"We're looking at three districts. Three moves — Clermont from east to north, Fork from north to west and Oakwood I from south to west. That will put us pretty close to equal representation," School Board Chairman Nath Morris said at Monday night's board meeting. "I did this same exercise 10 years ago and we moved a lot more districts then."

Because Hall County School Board members run countywide, Morris said redistricting is not as big of an issue as in other areas.

"Between 2000 and 2010, South Hall and East Hall have too many voters and North and West Hall have too few," Superintendent Will Schofield said.

Moving Fork and Oakwood I to West Hall adds about 8,000 voters to the area and putting Clermont in the North region adds roughly 4,300.

After the proposed moves, each of the four areas have between 34,000 and 39,000 voters. Morris said the East Hall area looks larger than the other three districts, but its population is small. West Hall will have the largest numbers if this map is approved.

Schofield said it was desirable to not split existing precincts.

"We know these district lines will not affect anyone who's sitting on the board now," Morris said. "This makes sense. The lines are pretty clear, and the numbers are right."

The school board also took steps Monday to pursue legal action against Caterpillar Inc., the company that manufactured some of the engines used in Hall County school buses. The buses have been shutting down and the company, which no longer makes school bus engines, has not shown an interest in getting them repaired, said Jewel Armour, Hall County's executive director of operations.

In the past three years, 19 of the county's transit buses and four of its special needs buses have been sent for engine-related repairs. One bus has been in the shop since November 2010.

Armour said the county has a 10-year, 150,000-mile warranty on the buses, which cost the school system in excess of $1.8 million.

Even when company representatives tested the buses, errors were noted, Armour said.

"We already had to take two of them back," he said.

"It's a never-ending thing. We don't have many miles on those buses ... I'm at the point where we either need to deal with Cat, hire an attorney or whatever we need to do."

Some of the issues deal with the emissions system in the vehicles, which burn particulate matter. When an engine warning light comes on, the bus has to be pulled over and its computer system kicks the bus into regenerate mode.

Though Schofield said the kindergartners are amused when their school bus in regenerate mode sets fire to grass on the side of the road, the school board members are less than enthused.

"Nineteen of these are transit buses. When we take those off the road we have to put two buses in their place and have two drivers," Armour said.

Yancy and Bluebird, the two associated bus companies, have done all they can do to repair the buses when something breaks, Armour said. The rest is up to Caterpillar, which he said needs to either replace the buses or compensate the school board for the money it has spent and lost over the past three years.

Schofield recommended moving ahead with litigation, a motion met with approval from other school board members. The board plans to find other districts facing similar issues with the company and join together for legal action.

"As far as I'm concerned until they get them running correctly, the 10-year warranty doesn't begin," he said. "This is beyond silly."

 

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