The Columbia County Board of Education has tentatively approved a policy it hopes will prevent traffic accidents like the one last year that killed two golfers headed to a tournament.
The proposed policy prohibits students from driving other students to school-sanctioned competitions or other extracurricular activities. The policy would not, however, govern transportation to and from practices.
The policy was drafted in the wake of an April 15 accident that killed two Greenbrier High School golfers - Shane Williams, 17, and Daniel Hall, 16. The student driver and another passenger were hospitalized after the vehicle left the road and flipped. The four were headed to Lincoln County's Rocky Branch Golf Club for a tournament. It is the school's home course, where all home tournaments and practices are held.
"We were all very concerned about the Greenbrier High School tragedy," said School Superintendent Tommy Price. "We wanted to look at what we could do to improve safety."
Under the new policy, approved Tuesday, students would be allowed to drive only when someone 21 years old or older is not available. In those cases, they would not be allowed to transport other students.
Emergency workers stand by the sport-utility vehicle in which two Greenbrier High School students were killed April 15.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Parents must give permission to allow their child to be transported in a vehicle not owned by the school system. When private vehicles are used for out-of-county travel, policy states that the group should travel in a caravan with the coach or adult in the lead.
"You could say that this puts more vehicles on the road, but a parent knows that it's my child and nobody else's if anything happens," Price said.
Board member Lee Muns opposed the policy revisions.
"Here we are basically saying parents aren't smart enough to say who their kids ride with," he said. "The Greenbrier incident was an accident. Now we are trying to create additional rules and paperwork when good, sound discretion and good, sound judgment would suffice. A lot of kids ride together. They live in the same neighborhood and they are going to the same places."
The policy also would not apply to practices, he pointed out, which are more frequent than games and are legally considered school-sanctioned events.
Board Chairman Wayne Bridges said he favored the policy changes.
"A kid sometimes will get in the car with somebody and they won't have the nerve to say 'slow down.' I would prefer we transport them to everything, but that's not possible. With this policy, we don't put other kids at risk."
The policy, Price said, was drafted by a committee of principals and athletic boosters. The policy would mostly affect participants in spring sports, such as rowing, golf and swimming. The board will make its final decision on the policy at the Aug. 26 meeting in Appling.
Also at the meeting:
* The board awarded a $111,150 contract to low bidder Dell Computers to provide 26 servers for the school system. The only other bid was from Compaq.
* The school system received proposals from three local realty agencies - Meybohm Realtors, Blanchard & Calhoun and Graybill & Associates - concerning uses for the Evans Middle School property, 21 acres which will soon be on the market.
"They all talk in similar terms, agreeing it would be a mix of commercial, retail and office buildings," Price said. "They all say they could either be the listing agent or developer and they all acknowledge sensitivity that there is a school there that has to be replaced. It could happen as quickly as 22 moths, but more realistically, three years."
In addition to selling the school, the system will have to apply for state funding and find the local money to build a new school.
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