Culver Schools Corporation Asks Pulaski Commissioners for Permission to Use Easements for Student Pickup

Pulaski County Commissioners: Mike McClure, Jerry Locke, Kenny Becker

A Monterey-area family isn’t happy with where the school bus is picking up their child. Now, the Culver Community Schools Corporation is asking for a decision from the Pulaski County Commissioners.

Tonya Keller-Martinez told the commissioners Monday that the school district is using a multipurpose vehicle, rather than a fully-equipped yellow bus, to transport her son, who uses a wheelchair. “It’s a white bus without any stop arms, any kind of stop safety equipment at all, and that’s a pretty serious thing to me,” she said.

The issue now is that the driver is apparently pulling the vehicle onto the easement alongside the road to pick up the student. Keller-Martinez isn’t happy with that arrangement. “In the first place, it’s my son’s safety that I’m fighting for,” she said. “And in the second place, you’re sure not going to keep risking his safety and, by doing it, take away my private property rights.”

But School Superintendent Karen Shuman said the use of the easement is necessary for the student to board the bus. “Many people let us use their driveway to pull in when we’re using this type of transportation,” she explained. “So we’re using the easement because we need to back up and align with the sidewalk so that a wheelchair lift can come down, and it has to remain on a level surface, in order for the wheelchair lift to be used. So there is an ADA sidewalk that was created, so we line up, so that we can use that ADA sidewalk in order to transport the child.”

Shuman pointed out that a newly-passed state law requires that school buses pull as far to the right of the road as possible when picking up students. She added the Indiana Department of Education’s director of transportation has said that an easement can be used for that purpose, and a county’s executive board can approve language to clarify the matter. “So what I’m asking for you guys – it’s called a utility and transportation easement. It is also used for public safety,” she told the commissioners. “I just need it worded whether a school bus falls into that public safety issue or does a school bus fall into transportation.”

Shuman also explained that the school corporation is legally allowed to use a multipurpose vehicle in this case, since the student attends a program at a different school corporation.

In the end, the commissioners voted to table the issue, until County Attorney Kevin Tankersley has a chance to review it and make a recommendation.