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By Mike Scott
School bus discipline issues are on the rise at Clark County R-1.
“We have kids that will smile right at the camera, give it the bird, and then do something,” said Superintendent Dr. Ritchie Kracht.
The problem was discussed at the October school board meeting on Monday, October 10.
On Thursday morning, a scheduled meeting that I had with Dr. Kracht had to be postponed, as there were five significant issues on four different buses that morning. Some of the incidents included:
•Two middle school boys kicking each other in the groin
•Two elementary students hitting each other with books
•Two incidents of vaping
•A girl bending a boy’s fingers backwards
“We’ve had a couple fights where we’ve had to look at the cameras to see what happened. We have a lot of issues with kids that don’t keep their hands to themselves or won’t stay in their seats,” Kracht said.
“That can be unsafe for the kids and distract the driver,” Kracht added.
The problem is frustrating for drivers, principals and administrators.
All of the district’s buses have video cameras.
“The camper help handle the problem,” Kracht said. “We don’t have to call everyone on the bus to the office and ask everyone what happened. But they are not always a deterrent.”
The problems may be being magnified by longer bus routes.
“We went from 16 routes to 12 this year, because we can’t find drivers,” said Kracht. “We have some kids getting on the bus at 6:30 in the morning. It’s not good for kids.”
Kracht explained that bus drivers earn $90-$108 per day, depending on seniority. In addition, they have health insurance, and can earn an extra $15 per hour for school trips, paid from the time they pick up the bus until the time they return. Drivers can also take their buses home, which can save miles on their cars.
“We’re losing drivers. We’ve already lost one this year. They don’t want to deal with the problems. We have to protect the safety of the kids and support our drivers. We’ve already removed two kids from the bus for the rest of the first semester,” Kracht added.
The new CDL license requirement also make it more difficult to get licensed.
“The Vo-Tech Center in Hannibal charges $2000 for the training. We’ll pay that for someone to become a driver,” Kracht said.
Vaping, the inhaling of vapors from e-cigarettes, remains a problem in the school district also.
“It’s not only tobacco products that the kids are vaping. I just found out that synthetic marijuana is legal to sell in Missouri,” said Kracht.
While vaping is primarily a problem in upper grades, it isn’t isolated there. Earlier this school year, a first-grader was found vaping behind a tree on the playground at Black Hawk Elementary
Ally Fox and Abby Plenge asked the board to allow the formation of a Young Women’s Empowerment Club, with Erin Hopp as its sponsor. The board approved. See related story on page 10.
The school board approved the state’s career ladder program, which allows teachers to earn extra money for extra activities, such as tutoring, professional development and club sponsorships. The state will pay 60 percent of those costs.
“It’s good for our kids and helps the teachers earn extra money,” said Kracht.
In other business, the board:
•Approved a bid of $6500 to sell one acre of land near Revere. The school district acquired the property when the former Revere district merged with Clark County. They buyer was Matt Burns, who owns adjacent property.
•Approved surveillance camera upgrades
•Approved the FFA trip to the National Convention later this month in Indianapolis.