Dorchester District Two has 137 school buses – and it needs every single one of them.
Linda Huffman, assistant superintendent of administration and personnel, said the schools – particularly elementary schools – have hectic bus routes; elementary schools have had double and triple routing, she said.
While there are always concerns on parents’ part about kids getting picked up and dropped off on time, Huffman said she believes it is not a bus problem, but a traffic problem in the area.
“We do the very best to be efficient in running the routes,” she said. “We will continue our efforts to be efficient but safety is paramount.”
The buses are provided by the state. DD2 has renewed its contract with Durham School Services, which employs the bus drivers, for the upcoming school year.
As of July, Jeff Catozzi is the new general manager for Durham in DD2.
“We’re staffed and ready to go,” he said. “We’re looking forward to the school year.”
In the 2011-2012 school year Durham became the first outsourced bus provider for DD2. In August 2011 The Summerville Journal Scene reported a number of obstacles parents and drivers faced at the beginning of the school year, with buses arriving late to bus stops, reports of buses breaking down or going AWOL and drivers taking wrong routes.
During a forum in April 2013, drivers from DD2 and Charleston County School District spoke out against what they said was harsh and unfair treatment received from Durham. In July 2013 DD2 went on to renew its contract with Durham.
Catozzi said while he has seen “challenges” in the past he tries not to look backwards.
“I’m looking forward to more involvement with the schools and the community this year,” he said.
In May the school district presented to County Council its proposed budget of $165,737,514 – a $3.2 million increase from last fiscal year’s budget.
The increase comes from state-mandated increases in teachers’ salaries, health benefits and retirement – and DD2 is growing in both students and teachers; officials anticipate a growth of 600 students this school year.
DD2 created a wish list of things it would like should it get more funds, including purchasing additional buses for daily routes.
“If we had 20 extra buses it would be wonderful,” Huffman said.
A big part in the chaos in the morning is having elementary and high schools starting at the same time.
If the schedule made it so they started at different times, Huffman said, that would have a positive effect.
“You really need to have an hour between the pick up and deliveries,” she said. “Our buses, for the most part, can do what they need to do in an hour.”
Huffman said DD2 is excited about starting the new year and said Catozzi seems to be “very enthusiastic” as well.
“I think we are doing our very best with the money we have,” she said.