Bus problem makes parents question reliability

  • Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A concerned mother took the podium Monday night to address Dorchester School District Two board members on what she has observed with the school buses at Flowertown Elementary School.

Summerville resident Desiree LaBranche told council members that she is a parent within the district and is also a PTA board member at Flowertown. LaBranche told board members Monday night that she and other parents in the area have had difficulties with the school bus transportation.

LaBranche called the system “completely unreliable.”

“A couple of times in the past two months my children have been dropped off over an hour late,” she said. “During that time there is no account for where they are or what the reason is.”

LaBranche said she has heard reasons such as the radios on the bus not working properly and therefore cannot be reached, or that the buses keep going through substitute bus drivers.

She added there was an incident when a busload of students was not picked up at the correct time – which was around 6:35 to 6:45 in the morning – and finally they were picked up at 8:05 and dropped off at the wrong elementary school.

LaBranche later heard the students were eventually dropped off behind the correct school, and nobody at the school was notified that they were late or even coming. Some students were marked absent.

“At this point, as parents, it’s very concerning to us because safety is the number one thing they are responsible for, and getting them to school on time,” LaBranche said. “It’s just very concerning.”

Linda Hoffman, assistant superintendent of administration and personnel, said the district is trying to work through the bus issue.

Hoffman said the bulk of the problem has been a lack of bus drivers.

She said LaBranche’s description of the incident where the students got dropped off at the wrong school was “a relatively accurate account” of what happened.

Hoffman did not go into detail on what happened that day but said the predicament “outraged” her.

“I think sometimes, even with the training, bus driving is a high-stress job,” she said. “It’s a lot of pressure to be responsible for the safety of all those kids on the bus.”

As far as the radios not working is concerned, Hoffman said she has never heard of the radios going out.

“I think it’s a rarity to hear of a radio not working,” she said.

The district is trying to find drivers who can safely and promptly deliver the kids to and from school, Hoffman said.

Since January, Hoffman has seen the bus situation improve and has received fewer phone calls from parents complaining about the buses.

“It can be an occurrence that just happens in the district due to the lack of drivers,” she said. “We’re looking for drivers who would like to make a great impact with their community.”

Hoffman hopes the bus situation will continue to improve by obtaining permanent drivers.

“Safety with the children is paramount to us,” she said. “It is first and foremost.”

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