Watching your kids step on the bus for their first day of school can be tough for any parent. Many in Muscogee County say they may not trust the transportation system again after students came home Wednesday hours behind schedule and some visibly shaken.
One mom posted on Facebook: “My child was on a school bus this afternoon out in Midland that was SO PACKED there were children SITTING ON THE FLOOR OF THE BUS.”
Another mortified mom who’s child attends Midland Middle School messaged News 3’s Mikhaela Singleton directly saying, “My child and many others were forced to ride another bus home yesterday because their bus wasn’t available to take them home… I will be taking and picking up my child along with 2 other kids until this situation is addressed and resolved.”
A Muscogee County School District representative tells News 3 the school system always expects a few hiccups on the first day of school while administrators iron out the kinks in bus routes and schedules that come up every year. However, she says under no circumstances should students ever be overpacked into a bus.
“That is not our protocol, that is not our priority. Our first priority is to safely transport our students to and from school and that includes following our maximum capacity limit,” says Communications Director Mercedes Parham.
She says the school district reconnected with school bus drivers, members of the transportation department, and principals at thee schools where complaints were filed. A resolution has been formed to split bus routes so no one bus is overcrowded.
She also adds the school district is working to fill the ongoing bus driver gap.
“That’s an ongoing issue that’s indicative of a national shortage. We have filled positions over the summer, but we could still use about eight or nine drivers,” Parham says.
Local moms also raised the issue of late arrivals. One frantic parent posted, “Does anyone know where my child is??? She’s still not home more than an hour after the bus should have came!”, later commenting her daughter wasn’t home until close to 5:30 p.m.
Parham responds most school administrators take the first few days to process transportation requests, particularly those that come in late after registration day.
“We’re glad that our parents entrust us to take care of all 32,000 of our students and we ask for a little bit of grace and please just communicate directly with us,” she says. “We take your concerns very seriously. Anything that could affect the safety of our students we are going to take as our highest priority.”
She advises any parent concerned for their child’s safety or looking to locate their child along their bus route to call the transportation department’s after-hours line at 706-748-2860. She says you may also visit the Muscogee County School District webpage for more information and to contact the communications department.