HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - The first day of the 2019-20 school year is officially in the books and the new school year is underway. This means increased traffic and activity within school zones, as well as more buses on the roads.
Officials with Horry County Schools are asking parents to be patient over the next few days as transportation crews sort things out.
The South Carolina Highway Patrol says you can expect to see increased law enforcement presence around school zones, especially during the first few weeks of school. Horry County Schools transports about 24,000 students on buses every day, with more than 400 school buses traveling over 1,300 routes in the morning and afternoon.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states school buses are 70 times safer than cars when it comes to getting children to and from school, and the most important tip for drivers is to slow down and proceed with caution anytime a school bus or children are present. Cpl. Sonny Collins with SCHP urges parents to go over general school bus stop safety rules with kids. Tell kids to stay out of the roadway, even if they’re walking to the stop in the daylight. A good rule of thumb to follow is at least six giant steps off the road. It’s also recommended to dress your child with some sort of reflective gear for their walk to the bus stop or for when they’re waiting to be picked up.
When the lights are flashing, drivers always need to stop for buses on two-lane roads. If drivers are on a four-lane road behind the bus, they must stop. The only time a person doesn’t have to stop is if they’re on the opposite side from a bus and approaching it on a multi-lane highway. Collins says drivers who don’t follow the rules when it comes to school buses could face some serious consequences.
“Just reminding drivers as we move into the school year, we’re going to have to be monitoring school zones. So there’s higher penalties for speeding in the school zones, and then of course if you pass the stopped school bus, the fine is extremely high, over $1,000 and six points off your license," said Collins.
For those concerned about their children’s bus stop, SCHP recommends contacting them directly so they can help address any problems out on the roads.
Officials say despite a few mechanical issues on buses, the first day back to school was a success. Jim Wright, executive director of transportation for the district, says a majority of the school buses are maintained by the S.C. Department of Education, so there were some maintenance issues on their end. Although officials have been working all summer long gathering as much information as they can through data parents submit, Wright says only about 75% of parents actually register their kids, leaving the other 25% who didn’t register to cause some delays in the process. Some parents reported a 25 to 35 minute delay at school bus stops during drop-off, but officials say these delays are only temporary.
During these few first days of school, transportation employees are constantly making adjustments to the student count totals on buses. Wright says elementary schools take the longest to load, which then causes a ripple effect into middle and high schools. District officials are asking everyone on the roads to pack some patience and expect delays for the first few days of school.
“We have over 45,000 students and 6,100 employees with Horry County Schools, so it’s almost like a small city. So gearing up, you’re always going to have a little bit of hiccups, especially when it comes to the bus routing so that is something we’ll eventually stabilize within the first week or two. We know we had a couple of timing issues in the morning and afternoon routes,” said Lisa Bourcier, Horry County Schools spokesperson.
For parents, there is an interactive online map you can follow along through the Horry County Schools website on the transportation page. Wright also says they’re working on a GPS system so parents can track school buses. He says he hopes that will be ready in time for next school year.