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Problems with Augusta school buses continuing

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School began in Richmond County this week with the same problems that plagued the district last year -- late school buses, absent drivers and students who arrived home hours after dismissal.

This time around, however, the bus problem is more complicated, said school system spokesman Louis Svehla.

On Monday, the transportation department had to deal with the normal first-day glitches that come with a new school year, but it also had to adapt to the district's new method of hauling magnet school students.

"No matter what year it is, what day, what time, it's never going to be 100 percent perfect on the first day of school," Svehla said. "Anytime you have changes, you're going to have growing pains. Once it works out, these parents will be happy because their kids will be home earlier."

The district is now having magnet school pupils ride a bus from their school to whichever middle school they are zoned for so they can transfer to a different bus to ride home.

Transportation Director Jimmy Wiley told the school board in June the shuttle system will save the district $100,000 in fuel and personnel costs and will also get those pupils home faster.

On Monday, many of those pupils missed their shuttle bus at the middle schools because they didn't know which bus to transfer to. That caused hours of delays and worried parents.

"We could have done a better job with being prepared for that," Svehla said.

The problem was almost rectified by Tuesday, when school officials told all magnet students the number of their transfer buses.

The magnet schools are John S. Davidson Fine Arts, C.T. Walker Traditional and A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering.

Overall, Svehla said, Tuesday and Wednesday were free of the problems of the first afternoon.

A summary report for Tuesday and Wednesday were not available Wednesday night, however.

Davidson Principal Vicky Addison said that some of her students did not get home until after 6 p.m. Monday but that Tuesday was smoother.

"It's gotten better, and I feel it will continue to get better," Addison said. "There are always kinks to work out at the beginning of school because the drivers have new routes, they're not familiar with the students nor the addresses and all that."

Adding to the complication on Monday, seven bus drivers were absent, and other drivers had to double-up on routes.

There were three mechanical failures, forcing some students to be transferred to other buses.

Svehla also said there were instances of drivers going off route on purpose and trying to find more efficient routes on their own.

School board President Alex Howard said he has received complaints from parents and has heard criticism about the transportation system in general.

He said that the adjustment to the new routes for magnet students created problems for the system and that they were ones that could have been avoided in the future.

"We were not prepared," Howard said. "I think they had the routes worked out, but I don't think they ran any test systems. I don't think they practiced it enough."

Communication was also an issue. Richmond County banned cellphones this year from school campuses and buses. Students were not able to notify parents that their buses were late, leaving families worried and wondering where their children were.

"We did not do a good job of tying to reach out to parents and inform them that the bus is going to be late," Howard said.

Although school officials have said the first-week problems will be resolved quickly, it is still a reminder of the issues experienced last year.

The new system of shuttling magnet students was created because they traditionally had to wait until drivers were done carrying all other students in the district before they could be picked up.

That meant buses would roll into the magnet schools about 5 p.m.

But the problems this week might be a continuation of what the system had to deal with last year, said school board member Jack Padgett Jr.

"We spend more time on transportation issues in a lot of instances than we do on education issues, and that's really the wrong way to do things," he said.

Padgett said he has considered suggesting the school district convert to a privatized bus system. The city recently contracted with a private company, Mobility Transit, to run Augusta Public Transit.

"I've always been a proponent that the private sector in a lot of instances can do a better job," Padgett said. "I'll very closely follow the city system and see how that works."

Padgett said private companies would have more authority to discipline drivers who show up late or not at all, which was a recurring problem last year.

"If it continues to the level it was for the first day, we would have to make some changes," Padgett said.

Comments (18) Add comment
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Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 08/11/11 - 01:38 am
0
0
Ok, I will not comment on the

Ok, I will not comment on the photo accompanying this article.

dickworth1
954
Points
dickworth1 08/11/11 - 02:23 am
0
0
It must be said that riding a
Unpublished

It must be said that riding a school bus is optional, if parents are not
satisfied with the buses pick your children up from school and then you
don't have to stress out about this problem. The very thought that you
are unhappy with the buses should trigger you to quit complaining aboutwhat is wrong with the schedule and take matters in your own hand by picking the kids up yourself. A lot of folks think our schools
are daycare centers when actually the school is for education purposes.

Craig Spinks
818
Points
Craig Spinks 08/11/11 - 03:42 am
0
0
In light of the way many kids

In light of the way many kids misbehave on school buses, I'm surprised that public school systems find any drivers.

Drivers, like teachers, are viewed as expendable, replacabe parts in a woefully underperforming local public school system.

Who has received RCBOE checks longer than anyone else? Hint: It's not a bus driver or a classroom teacher. Second hint: This person's shadow doesn't darken a classoom or a courtroom.

Craig Spinks
818
Points
Craig Spinks 08/11/11 - 03:43 am
0
0
OOPS: Line 3- "replacable"

OOPS: Line 3- "replacable" not "replacabe."

smartasugarsugar
139
Points
smartasugarsugar 08/11/11 - 04:35 am
0
0
well I'm in Columbia county

well I'm in Columbia county and they don't treat their employees much better. Also you get what you pay for, those that can DO, those that can't Teach. It's not like were working with the best of the best.

nofrills
0
Points
nofrills 08/11/11 - 05:20 am
0
0
Nothing but trouble comes

Nothing but trouble comes from these buses, reverse the law and allow the children to go to school in their own neighborhoods. Get rid of free busing put that money back in to our schools. These drivers put up with so much for so little. All I ever hear is. “It wasn’t my child" then you show them the video and still they have excuses for their Childs rotten behavior on the bus. Allowing kids to have cell phones only gives the bullies something else to take from your child trying to follow the rules. If you don’t like how the bus system runs then don’t use them. Problem solved…

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 08/11/11 - 07:41 am
0
0
This statement from school

This statement from school board trustee Jack Padgett shows what is wrong with the school system:

Padgett said private companies would have more authority to discipline drivers who show up late or not at all, which was a recurring problem last year.

No, Mr. Padgett. The school system has just as much authority to discipline any and all school employees who show up late or not at all. You are just not willing to use the authority you have.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 08/11/11 - 09:45 am
0
0
This is what happens when you

This is what happens when you depend on the government to take care of you.

If it were up to me I'd cancel the entire busing program. When did it become taxpayer responsibility to transport other people's kids to school anyway?

Riverman1
94246
Points
Riverman1 08/11/11 - 08:12 am
0
0
Chillen, now that's thinking

Chillen, now that's thinking out of the box. Love it. Want to go to a free school, find a way to get there on time.

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 08/11/11 - 08:52 am
0
0
Chillen, I agree with you,

Chillen, I agree with you, but there's one little problem, the federal courts. Do you remember the article a few days ago about Pete Fletcher and Ben Allen planning to "get together" once a month to work out a plan to have the 1972 Acree vs. Richmond Co. BOE court order lifted? It was that court order (still in effect) that ordered the busing.

Riverman1
94246
Points
Riverman1 08/11/11 - 08:59 am
0
0
LL, well that kind of busing

LL, well that kind of busing is a whole other level of insanity.

seenitB4
98477
Points
seenitB4 08/11/11 - 09:35 am
0
0
Insanity is correct.

Insanity is correct.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 08/11/11 - 09:52 am
0
0
I agree.. Padgett's comment

I agree.. Padgett's comment makes no sense. He is telling us that they have no way to discipline drivers who simply don't show up for work? LL is right, it's just the school board doesn't want to use any authority.. just easier to deflect blame to an outside management company. And according to Padgett, this sort of thing happens all the time to the point that he seems accustomed to it. That is unacceptable. What is more unacceptable is why the voters continue to return these career politicians back to their posts time after time. I do believe Mr Padgett did have opposition in the last school board race, voters here just love their incumbents.. well folks you get what you deserve. Stop returning these career school board politicians back to their posts year after year. This is the mindset you end up with.

pattym35
4
Points
pattym35 08/11/11 - 12:32 pm
0
0
So once they get the bus

So once they get the bus routes figured out and get the drivers to show up for work, will they work on getting the buses to STOP speeding (60+) mph down Hwy 56?? I've reported this countless times over the years and NOTHING has ever been done. I hope it doesn't take an accident with several children losing their lives to their attention.

Navarro
31
Points
Navarro 08/11/11 - 02:33 pm
0
0
7 drivers missed the first

7 drivers missed the first day of school, really. If you don't want the job there are a lot of unemployed folks out there.

ironpurps
212
Points
ironpurps 08/11/11 - 04:09 pm
0
0
RCBOE transportation is a

RCBOE transportation is a DISASTER! This is a complete mismanagement of one of the most important aspects of education - getting the students to school. How can 53 elementary students be left on a hot bus for hours because it 'wasn't the driver's route.' Insane! Someone at the BOE give the transportation director his pink slip. Enough is enough!

what is wrong
1
Points
what is wrong 08/11/11 - 09:43 pm
0
0
Padgett if you think you can

Padgett if you think you can do a better job, I'm sure you know the location of transportation. When something new is done, there will always be a glitch. To everyone who is putting the drivers down, why don't you try it for a day? They are abuse by the supervisor, students, and then parents. Most drivers have to work a second job, and pick up all the specials they can to make it. Mr. Wiley needs to come clean about why some of his drivers were not there. These drivers do the best they can with what they got. These people are not bad, so please stop making it look that way. For the parents who do not understand why the buses are late, ask for permission to ride with the drivers one day. Sometimes the behavior on the bus is the reason it can't move. Who makes the routes and time frame for them? Most likely not the drivers, and when the say it can't be done who listens. Before you speak about solutions, go look at the problem for yourselves. Mr. Wiley when you’re short on drivers, you need to get on a bus. A real leader would help his troops out. Parents make those bad kids behave, and maybe the drivers will show up for the pennies. (Fed up with the little people always being blamed)

christyanne76
44
Points
christyanne76 08/11/11 - 11:12 pm
0
0
How is bussing the magnet

How is bussing the magnet school students any different??? I went to AR Johnson in the early 90's...and then the bussing was that you rode the bus to the highschool you were zoned for...and then took another bus from your zoned school to ct walker and johnson...i dont recall ever being stuck on a bus for hours. That's a crap excuse.

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 08/12/11 - 09:06 am
0
0
Christyanne, it sounds like

Christyanne, it sounds like you are describing how you got to Johnson magnet school. How did you get home? I have seen school buses practically empty taking kids home from the magnet schools late in the evening and they drop each kid off at their front door.

That was costing us a fortune. The new system where the magnet school students are bussed to their zoned middle schools to take regular busses home is intented to use fewer busses and drivers. I hope it works.

What they used to have was a taxi system to take magnet school kids home. At least now they're trying a bus system.

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