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Ask the Times: Schools took over bus ownership in the mid-1960s
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This photo, which hangs in the Hall County Central Office, shows an Oakwood school bus from the early 1920s.

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My father, Hurst Jarrett, was a Hall County school bus driver in the 1930s, ’40s and until he passed away in 1957. He owned his bus. My question is when did Hall County begin owning the buses instead of being driver-owned?

Private ownership was phased out in the mid 1960s, according to Lee Lovett, deputy superintendent at Hall County Schools.

The Hall County Board of Education, according to Times archives, on July 9, 1962, set a goal to move to complete county ownership of the vehicles by the 1963-64 school year.

The idea was “geared to economize service and bring (the system’s) policies more in line with those of the state,” according to a July 10 article in The Times. In fact, according to a June 20 article, the new transportation policy would save an estimated $37,683, coming primarily from reducing the number of buses used and altering routes so that fewer total miles were covered, requiring some children to walk farther to catch the bus.

The new policies quickly encountered opposition from the community, though. Some 300 people showed up to what turned into a five-hour meeting with school board members Aug. 21, 1962, many voicing opposition about the change to pickups.

“The policy is arbitrary and unreasonable and does not serve the best interest of the children,” said John Crudup, an attorney for the protesting residents.

The school board passed the policy, though.

“In conclusion, the board is unanimously convinced that the citizens of Hall County must inform themselves and disregarding rumors and propaganda, they should calmly determine whether they prefer universal transportation at the sacrifice of a superior education program,” read a statement included in an Aug. 29 article headlined, “Board Stands by Policies On School Buses; Appeal Set.”

The tradition of private school bus drivers began as one-room school houses began consolidating, Lovett said.

“You go back in history — the Hall County school system started in 1871 ... obviously there were no automobiles. So you had the one-room school house, the little community schools, and nobody had school buses and they didn’t need them,” Lovett said. “And then they began to consolidate and the communities took the initiative to get the buses, I think.”

Bus drivers would contract with the schools. Trustees oversaw operations and the school board took recommendations from them.

George Chandler, whose father started driving a school bus in 1929, said he remembers the first bus he rode on as having a body made of wood and covered with sheet metal. Benches ran down the sides and down the middle, where students sat back to back. There were no glass windows, just openings with curtains.

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