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Survey finds interest in Decatur going to full bus service

By Bayne Hughes 340-2432

If Decatur City Schools gets the same response on a second survey, Superintendent Sam Houston said Tuesday, that would probably be enough to move toward a citywide bus service.

Houston said a recent survey showed sufficient interest in a citywide bus service, but the state said the sample wasn't large enough and it wants another survey.

Decatur school officials will send home surveys with students during the first week of school, which starts Aug. 9.

They ask that parents return the surveys within two weeks.

Houston said the school board conducted the initial survey as part of the Southern Association of Accreditation of Colleges and Schools' accreditation process.

A portion of that survey focused on interest in bus service for all students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

The school system sent surveys to 1,500 parents, 500 teachers and 500 community members. About 800 returned the surveys.

School officials also surveyed parents attending two public meetings in the spring.

Fifteen percent said transportation to and from school is a problem.

Of those surveyed, 30 percent said they would use bus service if the school system offered it.

This would be the third expansion of the bus system. Starting in 1980, Decatur bused only students involved in the city's school desegregation plan.

In 2003, residents in the Burningtree area began pushing for bus service because of a 20-mile round trip for some parents taking their children to and from school.

In response, the school system began offering busing for elementary students living at least two miles from their school for the 2003-04 school year.

Those same residents then complained that middle school students weren't allowed to ride the bus, so the school system expanded the service to start the 2004-05 school year to those students living two miles or more from their school.

The system got a mixed response.

Buses going to Brookhaven had a high demand, but for buses to the other schools, demand was light.

The city does not offer a bus service for high school students.

Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce officials and other community leaders then began asking for full bus service.

They said this is another way to attract people moving to the Tennessee Valley because of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission process.

The state Department of Education gave $800,000 to Athens City Schools to help start its full bus service.

Athens will begin busing elementary, middle and intermediate students when classes begin Aug. 9.

Decatur has been talking with the state about obtaining similar funding help for its next possible expansion.

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