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Greater Clark County parents, kids appalled by overcrowded, late buses

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 11:34 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 31, 2021 at 12:38 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Beginning a new semester is always a challenging task. However, after just three days of school, some parents with kids who are in Greater Clark County Schools are just as anxious as their students because they said school buses are packed, and pickups and drop-offs haven’t been on time.

“It was hot,” said a third grader in GCCS. “Someone kept squeezing in, so people can get down the aisle, and it hurt a whole lot.”

Two students spoke with WAVE 3 News who wanted to remain anonymous. Both said the overcrowding-conditions on their buses haven’t gotten any better.

A picture taken by a student shows three students on each seat, visibly jammed and uncomfortable.

It is lawful in Indiana for three students to be in a school bus seat if they’re at the elementary age. However, the students who spoke to WAVE 3 News said kids were pouring out of the seats and into the aisles, making them concerned for their safety.

A sixth grader said she texted her mom while on the bus.

“The message I sent to my mom said, ‘I’m done with this bus driver,’” the student said. “‘The bus driver is forcing us to squeeze in and some kids had to sit on some people’s laps.’”

In an email to parents, GCCS acknowledged the overcrowding issues and said the district is planning to send relief buses.

Here is the full email:

Dear Greater Clark Families:

We know you trust us with the safety and wellbeing of your children, and we consider that a privilege. We fully recognize the frustration that changes made to transportation routes has caused some parents in our communities. For this we sincerely apologize.

The first few days of school are exciting in so many ways, but are also full of logistical obstacles that are problem solved in the moment. This year’s launch has had a few more obstacles than most with route changes, construction areas, and enrollment modifications.

I’d like to take a moment to recognize some of the obstacles and let you know what the transportation staff is doing to rectify the issues at hand:

Reports of Full/Overcrowded Buses:

This morning we had three MS/HS buses that reported being full. Our response to the situation was to follow the system we have in place:

• Our overflow buses went to these buses and finished two/three stops left.

• The buses do not operate overloaded. They report being full and we send overflow buses.

Those three areas are being reviewed to see if an additional route is necessary.

One of the remaining issues will be any overcrowding on buses we may see today on the afternoon bus runs (July 29, 2021). The district will use the same process with overflow issues as we consider adding a route.

Unassigned Students:

At the start of school, some students and parents were unaware that they needed to place a transportation request for all changes to their student’s transportation. (ie: moved, new p.m. address, etc.) Every year, this results in students not knowing what bus they need to ride. While this process is communicated out through the enrollment process, School Messenger, and the website, we are reviewing the communication steps for next year to ensure more students and parents know this should be reviewed and completed each year if applicable.

Note: Once all students are accurately assigned, this will also contribute to solving any overflow issues

Ongoing Efforts:

Before school started, the district worked through more than 2,000 of transportation requests. We continue to receive those requests and have many staff members stationed at JHS, RVMS, and PVMS to work through the process of assigning students to buses. All elementary office staff members also work with the transportation department to assign any elementary student to their proper a.m. and p.m. bus route.

Transportation staff members are working daily and on weekends to process incoming transportation requests. They will continue this work pace until all requests have been assigned to a bus with a.m. and p.m. stops and times.

Greater Clark County Schools remains vigilant on providing a top-quality education to all students. This includes transportation to and from school as well. We appreciate parents being patient during this process. While the logistics are still being worked through for maximum efficiency, no bus will run overloaded, all students will be delivered to their homes, and all students will wear masks.

We look for all these transportation issues to be resolved by the beginning of next week. If you have an issue that hasn’t been resolved by then, please be sure to reach out to my team by calling or emailing Georgetta Thompson at gthompson@gccschools.com or 812-288-4809 x52105 or Superintendent’s Office, Renee Markoski at rmarkoski@gccschools.com or 812-920-1079 x50100.

Thank you for your understanding and continued patience while we work through the issues.

Sincerely,

Chad Schenck

Chief Operating Officer

Braden Reynolds, a father of two girls in the district, says everything used to run smoothly before summer break, and he would like to see the leadership work more quickly and make changes.

“That’s the last thing we need right now,” Reynolds said. “We’re all trying to work our jobs, balance family, life, everything else. There’s schedules for a reason. When we’re told something is going to happen, then we’re not told it’s going to be different, then, an hour and half later, here come my kids and I’m scared to death something’s happened to them.”

After repeatedly calling and getting through, Reynolds spoke with a representative who said there weren’t enough bus drivers on the routes.

“The part where I’m really frustrated,” said Reynolds, “uhe last time I saw the board up by the school it said $13 an hour. I saw a sign up at Zaxby’s for $17 an hour. I certainly think my kids are worth more than chicken.”

WAVE 3 News asked GCCS for comment on the source of the transportation issues and the possible solution but have not heard back.

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