We all understand that it’s the first week of school and that there are bound to be glitches. But some of the stories I am hearing from parents about the bus situation in T/E are unacceptable and scary!
Part of the problem with transportation issues may have to do with the changes in school start times. Back in April the school board approved the change in start times as a result of adolescent sleep needs. The changes are as follows:
High School: 7:50 AM – 2:50 PM (previously 7:20 AM – 2:20 PM)
Middle Schools: 8:27 AM – 3:10 PM (previously 7:50 AM – 2:33 PM) Elementary Schools: 9:10 AM – 3:45 PM (previously 8:45 AM – 3:20 PM)
For some working parents, the later start times created schedule issues but they had four months to make necessary adjustments. The transportation department of the District also had four months’ notice to adequately adjust the bus schedules and routes as needed. Not sure exactly what happened during the summer months but there seems a huge disconnect between the Krapf Bus Company and its drivers, the District’s administration and transportation department and the parents and their children.
I want to be clear that no parent who contacted me was expecting the system to work perfectly the first week but they sure deserved better than what some received!
Unsettling information about the District’s bus transportation includes late buses, repeated changes in schedules (one mother reported three schedule changes occurred last week), poor or non-existent communication from the transportation department and/or administration, unanswered phone calls and emails. Where is the accountability to the District’s parents?
As an example, here’s one disturbing story – bus #32 in the Glenhardie area was scheduled to pick children up at Valley Forge Elementary School at 3:45 PM. For those that don’t know, VFES is located on Walker Road, extremely close to the homes of the students. The VFES students on bus #32 did not arrive home until 6 PM, after spending hours on the bus!
One of the parents of children on bus #32 reported that the driver was lost in the neighborhood and that the older children on the bus were attempting to direct the driver – with the younger children upset and crying. It was reported that the driver actually became stressed herself and told the children that she was lost and didn’t know where she was going. Eventually the bus driver made her way back to Valley Forge Middle School with the children – yep, took the kids to the middle school! The children sat on the bus without air conditioning while they waited for a Kraft Bus Company ‘trainer’ to arrive and transport the children home. Isn’t there a dry run of bus routes before school starts – this should not be an “on the job training” position!
With safety a high priority in schools (remember we have all our schools fenced in!) one can only imagine how distraught the parents and children became as the hours dragged on. But the worse part – the District apparently invested in a new software system, TE All-Call, which was to notify the parents of bus delays. The parents received NO notification from All-Call and NO notification from the District. Parents had no idea where their children were for hours! The problems with #32 route continue with the driver picking up students at incorrect stops, late arrivals, etc. Parents described feelings of disappointment towards the lack of communication regarding when their children would be home – there has been no follow-up apology or explanation from the District.
I want to be clear, the problems with bus #32 and its driver is not an isolated transportation situation in the school district this week. I had another parent mention that none of the blinking bus caution signs were turned on in the District. This becomes important when children who walk to schools are crossing busy roads and drivers need notification that schools are open. It was also reported that the Krapf driver of bus #29 at New Eagle Elementary School had similar problems as bus #32 driver with getting the children home late due to confusion with the bus route.
At Monday’s school board meeting, a parent from Paoli commented that their bus stop location had changed and now requires the children to stand in a busy road to wait for the bus. She reported having contacted the District’s transportation department but there was no response.
Again – we all get that this is the first week of school but some of these reports were avoidable! Why do Krapf bus drivers not know their routes? Why isn’t the TE All-Call system notifying the parents of bus delays? Why are the blinking school lights not turned on? And why isn’t the school district responding and/or communicating to the parents?