Sunday, August 12, 2001

Governor reviews van ban

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Gov. Bob Taft has the authority to lift a Department of Education ban on the use of school vans for sports and after-school programs.

        “We're looking into it,” Taft spokeswoman Eileen Corson said Friday. “We're looking into the whole issue.”

        Current rules prohibit their use except for shuttling preschool and special-education students or those who live on roads that buses can't use.

Gov. Taft
        If a legislative panel accepts proposed new rules, the earliest vans could be approved to shuttle school teams and clubs is Sept. 18, said Bill Hills, director of the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review.

        However, Mr. Taft has the power to enact emergency rules that last 90 days, Mr. Hills said.

        Some districts said a ban on vans would be a hardship, but they are hoping the problem will be fixed.

        Republican state Sen. Priscilla D. Mead of Upper Arlington proposed to broaden the legal use of vans, not outlaw them.

        The Department of Education withdrew proposed rule changes in July that would have allowed a district to use a van when it “determines that it cannot reasonably provide school bus transportation.”

        On Thursday afternoon, the Department of Education refiled the same proposed rules with the committee.

        “We're hoping that (the committee) will realize that our efforts are sincere,” said department spokesman J.C. Benton.

        The news that school districts can be cited by the State Highway Patrol and fined $100 for driving students in school-owned vans has sent school districts scrambling to keep sports programs together.

        While the issue is being worked out in the rules panel, the Highway Patrol likely will not cite districts that use their vans, a spokesman said.


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