Unveiled earlier this summer, the new bus routing system experienced a combination of problems Tuesday afternoon that combined to see some students getting home as late as 7 p.m. on the first day of school.
“What happened yesterday is unacceptable, but we’ve worked as hard as we can to resolve the issue. It’s not without problems, but we’ll continue to monitor it and see how things go,” said Superintendent of Ashe County Schools Travis Reeves. “If any other problems arise, we’ll deal with them to see that they’re quickly resolved.”
In an effort to shorten ride time, the Ashe County School System released the new bus routing plan earlier this summer. It utilizes a shuttle bus system where elementary school students are released from school first, driven home, and then buses return to the middle and high school to then take those students home. Anticipated wait times at the middle and high school for the shuttle buses were anticipated to be around 30 minutes. On Tuesday, the wait times were much longer.
At 4 p.m. the Jefferson Post saw a sizeable crowd of students still waiting on their ride at Ashe County High School. At 4:25 p.m., the crowd of waiting students was much smaller, but some students were still left waiting as bus 160 pulled away from the high school.
Sherry Stike, a mother with a son at the middle school, said her sone didn’t arrive home until 6:30 p.m.
“We live on the hill across from Cardinal Lanes, and my son would normally get home around 4:15 last year. This was unreal,” said Stike. “He had to wait in that hot gym up at the middle school and that, combined with the fact he wasn’t able to take his ADD medication on his normal schedule (when he gets home), he was so sick. He came home and went straight to bed.”
Kim Bauguess, a Lansing resident with a student at the middle school, said the entire day was confusing. “The piece of paper he took to school with him said he was supposed to ride bus 0. Turns out, bus 0 doesn’t exist.” Bauguess said her son waited at Blue Ridge Elementary for an hour, and finally made his way home at 6:30.
Reeves said a combination of problems caused the long delays.
“Yesterday, the morning routes went just fine, but the differences in the afternoon routes led to the problems,” said Reeves. “One thing we experienced yesterday was a flood of kids that weren’t signed up for the bus system; it caused a lot of delays. This led to lengthened rides that drivers weren’t anticipating.”
Reeves complemented the system’s bus drivers and said they were a very dedicated group. “The drivers each drove the route in their personal vehicles several times, to learn where their stops were. However, doing it their personal vehicle and with a busload of kids is two different things,” said Reeves.
To fix the problems, Reeves said they had an administrator’s meeting this morning, and changes were being made to make sure the kinks in the new system were worked out over the next several days. Reeves said each student has been told what their bus number is, and have been given a ticket that they must hand their driver to make sure they’re on the correct bus.
“We’re hoping the changes we’ve made will alleviate most of the problems,” said Reeves. “This has been a huge job and we’ve worked on it all summer; we want to make sure we get it right.”
Reeves said he anticipates minor problems to arise over the next week, but said the dedicated drivers and supervisory staff would work hard to make sure problems were fixed. “We’re going to make sure the problems are fixed, and that kids get home on time. I think once we get the middle school situation corrected, everything else will run much smoother. We appreciate the patience parents have displayed. “