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5 Questions for Jewel Armour
0813HOME-FIVE-Armour

About Jewel Armour

Age: 61
Hometown: Lula
Length of time in Hall County: I have lived in Hall County all my life.
Education: Education specialist degree from the University of Georgia
Occupation: Executive director of operations in charge of transportation for Hall County Schools
Most interesting job: It has to be my current job. Every day presents a new challenge.
Family information: Married, one son.

Each Monday, “5 Questions” asks someone in our community to answer five questions about their lives. If you know someone who would be a good subject for this feature, send their name and contact information to askthetimes@gainesvilletimes.com.

As the man in charge of school bus routes for Hall County Schools, Jewel Armour has one of the county’s most challenging jobs. He oversees 223 bus routes that deliver thousands of students to schools across Hall County. But it’s a job he loves. Today, The Times asks Jewel Armour five questions about getting to school on the bus.

 

1. How has transporting students changed over the years?

I started in transportation in 1984. At that time we were running 101 bus routes. This year we will run approximately 223 bus routes.

Some of the more obvious changes since 1984 have been commercial licenses for drivers, drug and alcohol testing for drivers and growth in the school system both in the number of students and the number of schools.

When I started, we had three high schools and three middle schools. We have since added three high schools, three middle schools and seven elementary schools. We have upgraded our bus driver training program, our student discipline procedures, our safety program and our driver screening process.

We have progressed from gasoline to diesel and now to LP-powered (liquefied petroleum) engines in our buses.

I think one of the biggest changes has been the cost of fuel. I remember a fuel budget of about $450,000 per year. This year we are looking at about $2.5 million. That is in a school system that, according to the Georgia Department of Pupil Transportation, is the second most efficient in the state in terms of use of buses.

 

2. How has riding the bus changed for children since you were a kid?

When I was a child the bus rides were much longer due to the smaller number of buses in the system and the proximity of the schools. I think parents were more trusting of the bus drivers, probably because they knew most drivers personally.

I think parents — if they were like my parents — tolerated less from their child when they misbehaved. Today, with all the media available, it is easy for parents to see the bad publicity and worry that all drivers are alike.

Many do not realize the screening and the effort we make to find applicants (who) have good character, who will drive safely, and who will take care of our children.

I am proud of our bus drivers and (the) job they do each day in getting children to and from school safely while trying to monitor everything that happens on the bus. It is a very demanding occupation.

 

3. What is the one thing you wish people understood better about the logistics of transporting so many children around each day?

We would love to pick up every child at their doorstep. However, funding restraints and time restraints do not allow us to do that without causing taxes to increase dramatically. If you think about time restraints, if a bus has 60 students on board and we have to wait one minute for each student to come to the bus stop, the bus would be one hour late.

 

4. What is the one thing you worry about the most on a daily basis?

My biggest worry is when students are loading and unloading the bus. Unfortunately, many people do not stop for the bus stop arm and warning lights.

We conduct student safety training every school year to try to teach and remind our students of the safety procedures of riding the bus. In that training, we stress the safe way to cross the road.

It is normal for the smaller children to forget to look at the driver and the traffic before crossing the road. Most fatalities involving school buses occur outside the bus. I always feel better when all the buses reach school in the mornings and when all students are delivered home in the afternoons.

I would beg everyone who drives any type vehicle to watch for school buses, to slow down when approaching a school bus, and to observe the warning lights and stop arms on school buses. Our children cannot be replaced!

 

5. Are there any new technologies that are making your job (and the job of your drivers) easier?

In 1998 we installed bus routing software. It has allowed us to respond faster and more accurately when parents inquire about their school zone and bus information. It has also allowed us to provide each driver with a route sheet that provides detailed directions and information about each student.

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