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School bus cameras to get trial run
Plan originally called for cameras on 10 school buses
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A plan to document evidence of drivers illegally passing Effingham County school buses might not include as many bus cameras next year as originally thought.

The Effingham County Board of Education on Thursday approved a scaled-back version of the agreement it reached in December for CrossSafe Services to equip 10 of the county’s school buses with exterior cameras. CrossSafe will now conduct a “trial run” with cameras on two school buses for the next two months, to determine if the company would recoup enough money from bus stop citations in Effingham County to justify its investment.

“It is a trial run, for two months from now until the end of school, to see if those two buses (each) will get at least 18 violations” per month, Superintendent Randy Shearouse said.

CrossSafe based that figure on results it is seeing with other school districts, Shearouse said. He added that CrossSafe told the school district that bar must be met for the company to provide the other eight school bus cameras.

Shearouse and board member Mose Mock both voiced their hope that the cameras will find far fewer than 18 cars passing school buses that are stopped to pick up or drop off students.

“You really would like for it to have none. That would be better,” Shearouse said. “But if we do have a lot, that shows that we have a need and the company has a need to put more cameras out there.”

The school board approved the revised contract 3-1, with board member Eddie Tomberlin unable to attend the meeting. No representatives from CrossSafe were in attendance.

Board Chairman Lamar Allen cast the lone dissenting vote. Allen said he is open to having cameras on school buses, but did not like CrossSafe changing its agreement with the school district.

“When it first came out, I thought it was a great idea,” Allen said. “They gave us a contract, but now they come back and don’t want to do what they said. I just feel like it’s time to move on from them.”

The small cameras are installed on the sides of buses, just below the stop sign. No camera components are inside the bus and no pictures are taken of students on the bus.

The camera is active anytime the bus engine is running, and a motion sensor activates the camera to record still photos and a video clip of any car approaching and passing a stopped bus. A ticket for a violation is mailed to the owner of the vehicle.

Whatever number of cameras are on Effingham County school buses next year — 10 or two or none — will not result in any cost to the school district. CrossSafe would cover the entire cost to install and maintain the cameras, and recoup its investment by receiving a portion of the fines from the tickets.

Under the contract, CrossSafe would receive $135 from a driver’s first ticket and $160 for all subsequent violations by the same person. The board of education would collect $50 from each ticket. Once CrossSafe and the school board receive their portions from a ticket, the county would collect the remaining amount.

However, Allen questions whether the deal with CrossSafe will continue. He said meeting the condition of 18 violations per bus over the next two months is unrealistic.

“It’s not going to be 36 in a month,” Allen said. “I just can’t believe there would be that many, and nobody else does. So it’s just really a waste of time.”