12/14/05 — State asks for limits on idling outside schools

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State asks for limits on idling outside schools

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 14, 2005 1:53 PM

A policy designed to curb unnecessary bus idling and support fuel conservation will also spill over to parents waiting in carpool lanes, school officials say.

The school board Monday night voted to support the state-issued policy, which will apply to school buses as well as passenger cars. It stipulates that neither should idle on school grounds longer than five minutes.

Sprunt Hill, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services, said every school system in the state was asked to comply with the policy.

"We have got to have this before they'll give us additional funding for the second part of the year," he said.

Unnecessary bus idling not only wastes fuel and financial resources, the policy states, but emissions that accumulate can be harmful to students and bus drivers. To that end, the measure prohibits all unnecessary school bus idling on school grounds. It also extends to warming up the buses no longer than five minutes, except in circumstances that might be beyond the bus driver's control.

Hill said the policy applies to school and activity buses. The circumstances in which exceptions could be made to the five-minute rule would include waiting in traffic, loading and unloading students with special needs, traffic or emergency situations and maintenance or mechanical inspections or repair, he said.

While parked on school grounds, the policy stipulates that buses will not be allowed to idle while loading or unloading and cannot be left running without the driver being within three feet of the bus.

In addition, schools will be asked to post "no idling" signs to alert bus drivers and parents to turn off vehicles when parked or while waiting. The principal will be responsible for ensuring that parents in carpool lanes are informed of the policy.

School board member Pete Gurley questioned how the policy could extend to passenger cars. Hill said there have been cases where parents line up outside the school, sometimes more than an hour before school is dismissed, leaving the vehicle running for extended periods.

"I don't know how you can control parents running their automobile," Gurley said.

"Once they find out the rules and the reasons why we're doing this," Hill said he believed the public would follow it. "It's for our environment as well as saving fuel."