By Greg Gelpi
An eerie quiet may soon befall the Morrow High School football team on road trips.
The Clayton County Public School system pulled the nationally recognized school band's equipment bus this season, forcing the band to pay $700 to rent a truck for each road trip, Larry O'Keeffe, a Morrow High parent said.
O'Keeffe addressed the Clayton County Board of Education at a recent meeting, seeking assistance in the matter.
"Last year Morrow won the national competition in Charlotte but was not able to finish because of a lack of support from the administration," he stated in a letter to Interim Superintendent William Chavis. "With all the adverse publicity the Clayton County School system has had in recent months can we afford to pass up the opportunities provided by such a positive program."
The school's transportation department, though, never intended to allow the band to transport equipment in the bus, Assistant Superintendent for Auxiliary Services Ronnie Blake said.
"We didn't take the bus away," Blake said. "There was never meant to be a bus allotted to them."
The county discovered that the bus was used for equipment instead of students when it began requiring schools to list the names of the students on each bus this year, Blake said. By law, the school system must be able to present the name of each student on a bus in the case of an accident.
"We can't put large instruments on a bus with children," he said. "It is against the law to block the aisles."
In the case of an empty Morrow bus carrying only instruments, the situation could be more hazardous, Blake said.
"These items would be loose and flying all about," he said.
O'Keeffe argued that the school system always puts "obstacles" in the way of the band's success and progress.
"Our first responsibility is to make sure we transport children to and from school each day," Coordinator of Transportation C.W. Campbell said.
Campbell was unsure why the bus was taken from the band this school year, but said school buses are not designed to transport large equipment.
"Buses are designed for the normal wear and tear of students, but not for certain equipment," he said. "We probably couldn't put a tuba on a bus without injuring someone."
And safety is the transportation department's foremost concern, Campbell said.
Football teams transport their equipment in county school buses, but that equipment is smaller than the band's equipment, he said.