Riding the school bus should be nothing if its not safe right? Think mechanically sound, a bus driver with a clean police check, good driving record, and a measure of interpersonal skills to reassure you that he or she is in charge of the children while in their care, aware of any issues, and able to communicate clearly the 411 on how things are handled. Parents of children in public education depend on the bus system to partner with them, transporting children to and from school safely and on time every single day. After all, its part of what our taxes are meant to pay for.
Now that Labor Day Weekend has come and gone, with the entire nation back to school, school buses are everywhere and in Wake County, North Carolina, it’s not a pretty site. In an effort to achieve heightened efficiency and win grant money as a result, the school system reduced the number of buses on the roads, including combining routes for different schools onto one bus at the same time. All the while still preserving school choice enabling families to choose from five elementary schools, three middle schools, and three high schools with transportation to any. In a neighborhood like mine with fewer than 100 homes and barely as many school aged children, that means we have eight buses in and out of our neighborhood two times EVERY day. One of those buses is picking up just one child. Yes. ONE child when every other high school aged child in that neighborhood is attending a different high school. Now remember, at the same time that the county reduced the number of buses in the name of efficiency, it increased the number of choices for every family which could only result in longer bus rides and chaos.
A snapshot of how this has played out in our community:
Step back for a minute and consider what a “normal” afternoon often looks like for the typical American family with school aged children. Snack, homework, activities for multiple children and the transition into dinner time which often includes making dinner on the spot. Perhaps more homework or activities, and bedtime. Consider that the window from 3:00pm to 9:00 pm can be the most stressful time of the day for Moms, particularly for those working outside the home gathering their children from aftercare or handing off with a caregiver or between each other only to arrive home and make it all happen with half the time.
At a critical time of day where smooth transitions and dependable partners matter, Moms (not to mention Dads, grandparents, siblings, and caregivers) in Wake County have been met with complete chaos. And back to that big yellow school bus and safety. Does this sound like our buses are safe? Its true, I’m not talking about the actual bus itself. But bus safety is not just the bus. Its the process. Its me saying “I trust my child and his/her safe transport every day to my transportation partners, the Wake County School System.” And a HUGE part of that is the process of how you make that happen. So here are my questions:
The latest updates report that it will be at least another four weeks before all the new bus drivers will be fully trained and able to take over routes with success. Parents and students will continue to be wildly inconvenienced and for those who are able to choose carpool, (which so many cannot), will have to navigate lines of more than 30 minutes there as well ~ making roundtrip car pool excursions last at least an hour. For schools less than five miles from home.
When it comes to a challenge, I’m all about finding solutions that work. Its why our tagline here at GO MOM! is Outsmart the Chaos. And here is how we are making it work. We are blessed to have a group of parents in our neighborhood who can collectively share the transportation burden, taking turns to carpool to minimize the negative impact on our respective employers and our children. As activities kick in over the next four weeks, the afternoons particularly will remain a balancing act of chaos with children spanning elementary to high school. This is not self inflicted. Its a total logistical and planning fail by one of the largest school districts in the nation. Its shows that the well being of our children and their families using the school bus system was last in the mix of variables to consider. It is simply NOT okay.
Do you use the public school bus system? How does it impact your family’s afternoon schedule?
Thanks for stopping by ~ we’ll see you next time!
©2013 GO MOM! Inc. All rights reserved. To repost or publish, please email Molly.