MIAMI (CBS4) – Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said he plans to add 30 to 50 new bus drivers to ease continuous problems with the student transportation system.
During the first week of school some parents complained of buses never showing up, school buses excessively late or inordinately early.
Speaking to reporters Friday afternoon, Runcie pledged to fix the trouble.
He also said the district has been analyzing the situation and will work on balancing out some routes. In other words, give ‘fewer’ stops to the drivers who have too many, and ‘add’ stops for the bus drivers who have too few. Runcie also said that rather than ‘daily’ changes to routes, it will be done on a ‘weekly’ basis.
When pressed whether there would be any changes at the top, Runcie says he still has full faith in his transportation director.
Earlier this week, parent Pamela Dixon told CBS4 News that her fourth and fifth grader never arrived home from Walker Elementary in Ft. Lauderdale.
“I was at the bus stop waiting on my kids to come home and here it comes two hours later my kids are calling me saying we’re still at school the bus didn’t come,” she said.
Instead they spent the afternoon with a number of other children all waiting for their parents to pick them up after their buses didn’t show.
Tammie Slaughter’s kids were also stuck. The two attend different schools, but neither’s bus showed up.
“I hope they can get this rectified soon,” she said, adding, “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I may have to result to home schools I don’t want my children to attend because they’re in a magnet program.”
Imagine Tammy Benjamin’s surprise when her 6 year old son Joshua and his friends were dropped off from the school bus more than 15 minutes early.
“The fact that the bus driver is a half hour early, 15 minutes to a half hour early dropping off 5 young kids, only one of them is mine,” said Benjamin. “(She) didn’t happen to ask me, are you taking care of the other kids I am dropping off?”
The only reason Tammy arrived so early is because she planned to talk to CBS4’s Ted Scouten about, you guessed it, bus problems. Now she’s explaining to other mom’s who are showing up on time, why she became the impromptu sitter.
“Had I not been here the kids would have been here at a quarter till,” Benjamin told two other moms, “It’s not supposed to be till from 3 to 3:15.”
“I’m very grateful that there was another parent here to be here for the children,” another mom said.
Many Broward parents are complaining about the buses this year, like Steve Spiegelman. When he got the bus information card for his child…it was blank.
“You’re supposed to see,” he pointed out on the card, “what time he’s getting picked up, what the route number and it’s all blank.
Tammy’s original complaint was that she was told the bus would pick her son up very early in the morning — turns out– the information was wrong.
“The bus didn’t show up for an hour and a half,” said Benjamin. “Our bus cards said 6:15 in the morning, to 6:26. At 7:30 the bus never came.”
The transportation union said the problem is with the new leadership making unnecessary changes.
“What’s the solution to all this?” CBS 4’s Ted Scouten asked transportation union rep Linda Lewis. “You want my real answer? Get a new director!”
We spoke to a bus driver who didn’t want to be identified for fear of losing her job, but she wants parents to know drivers are frustrated too. She said, “our hearts go out to the kids. I’ve been a bus driver for 20 some odd years and I have never ever seen anything this crazy. Everyday something is changing, so i mean we just need help this has to stop.”
She urged parents to keep airing their concerns.
The school board said it is working on fixing the problems and has set up a hotline for parents to call with questions and concerns. The number is 754-321-4480.