Leadership Pinebelt group donates four bus shelters to city

By HASKEL BURNS,

When the staff of the 2018 Leadership Pinebelt Class set about implementing their group projects to address needs in the community, they came upon quite a dilemma: although the Hattiesburg Public School District provides rides for more than 2,700 students, there are a very small number of shelters on the more than 65 routes covered by the bus system.

So Shelter Hattiesburg – one of three groups to come out of that Leadership Pinebelt class – began raising funds to provide those shelters, and are now in the process of donating four of those structures to the city’s mass transit program for use during inclement weather.

“During inclement or even uncomfortable weather, it is common for many students to stay home,” states a letter from Shelter Hattiesburg to Hattiesburg City Council, who recently approved the donation. “These shelters will support current and future generations by encouraging school attendance, allowing students more instructional hours and opportunities to grow.

“When students are at school, teachers don’t have to spend extra time remediating lessons. When students are at school, they soak up valuable knowledge that will lead them to higher test scores and an increased chance of graduation.”

While all four of the bus shelters have been purchased, two are still in the process of construction. One of the shelters is currently on Central School Road, while another is near William Carey University.

The proposed locations for the other two are Beverly Hills Road and Country Club Road.

“We worked with the transportation department and the administration at the school district to determine locations that had the most children,” said Betsy Mercier, a member of the 2018 Leadership Pinebelt class. “We wanted to focus on providing shelters for students at apartment complexes that ride the bus to and from school, while also accommodating for months of the year when they’re not in school.

“So we looked at where the bulk of the children are staying, and if there was or was not a shelter (at a particular complex) that they could retreat to.  Pending weather – maybe storms, rain, wind or even the few cold months we have – there needed to be an area that is safe and sustainable for them to be protected prior to school, and then a safe drop-off location.”

A concrete opening date for the upcoming locations has not yet been established, but officials hope to be able to hold a ribbon cutting in time for the upcoming school year.

“That would be an exciting way to kick off the year, and show the students that the school system and the city supports them,” Mercier said.

Leadership Pinebelt, a program offered by the Area Development Partnership, is designed to train emerging and existing leaders in the Greater Hattiesburg area. For more information, call (601) 269-7500.

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