By Maggie Alexander
Wake County's Board of Education got an earful from parents Tuesday night, about school bus problems. The members apologized for a rocky start to the school year.
Parents have been reporting lost bus drivers, late buses, and buses missing their stops.
There have been thousands of complaints since the start of school.
The Apex area's been especially hard hit.
“I have spent 3-4 hours every day for the last 6 days dealing with this issue on transportation, another part time job for me, and I am fed up,” said Alicia Motyka, whose son is in the 2nd grade. She complained to the board, “Your schedule has turned my son into a grumpy and exhausted child who doesn't want to complete his homework or do anything by the time he arrives home.”
Wake Schools Chief Facilities and Operations Officer Don Haydon.put together a list of what caused the problems. Among them: Wake Schools tried to save money by cutting dozens of buses, and dropped from three days of training for bus drivers, to just one day.
Transportation staff have added 34 buses back into the system, including seven in Apex.
Parents and children have been telling us for the past week and a half, about lost bus drivers, kids spending two to three hours on buses, and buses just not showing up.
One of the worst cases was in Cary. Jennifer Compton says her two daughters were trapped on a bus from Weatherstone Elementary for three hours with a lost driver, and the bus was in an accident. The driver backed into a stop sign.
Parents and children are also concerned about overcrowding on buses.
A middle schooler from Willow Spring described her ordeal Tuesday. “The crowding of kids everybody's screaming because there's so many kids. And somebody's hurting somebody because they're sitting on them or sitting next to them and there's, one morning there was even four kids to seats,” said Hanna Hobbs.
Her father Mike Hobbs says kids are having to sit in each others laps or in aisles and he thinks that's not safe, and puts kids at risk of physical abuse.
“You cut the transportation department back to a breaking point where they can't run a sufficient amount of buses, how are they supposed to transport these children back and forth? When traditional school came back in the bus just didn't come,” said Hobbs, describing how the bus did not make its scheduled stop one day.
Wake Schools say they had a double whammy this year: more students, and less money.
They were trying to make do with fewer buses than last year.
After a week of comments and concerns from Wake County parents about transportation, the school system added to its fleet.
“After further assessment this weekend, transportation staff increased the total number of additional buses from the projected 27 to 34,” said Mike Charbonneau, Director of Public Relations for WCPSS.
The additional 34 buses come after the system received thousands of complaints about the buses being late.
“After over an hour, the bus still had not shown up. We had no idea where he was, we didn’t know if he was lost with the new bus system,” said parent Laura Sokol.
With the extra buses, this means there are 915 buses this year for 151,000 students. The number of buses on the road is down from last year, when there were 932 buses for 146,000 students.
The school system reduced its fleet this year to try to save money and meet efficiency standards, but after the first week of issues, Superintendent Tony Tata says he’ll do what it takes to fix the problems.
“I think trust will be earned back over time, to get to the point where we need to be,” said Tata.
School officials add that the drivers of the new or altered routes practiced the runs over the weekend.
The updated bus routes can be found by clicking here.