The first day of school is always a little hectic.
But several school districts had a more chaotic day than usual Tuesday due to transportation changes.
Parents voiced their concerns on The Daily News Facebook page, specifically regarding Central Montcalm Public School, Greenville Public Schools and Tri County Area Schools.
Nicole Crippen-Kill of Sheridan was upset that she and other parents were not informed buses would be more than half an hour late.
“When I called they said they had kids on wrong buses and kids that didn’t know where they were going and had not even left the school at 4 p.m.,” she said. “My girls were supposed to be dropped off at 3:45 or 4 and got home at 4:35. They didn’t tell the kids what was going on either because my daughter texted me and said she had no idea why they were still sitting at the school.”
Michelle Damaska-Miller of Stanton thinks the district has logistical and timing issues.
“The high school and middle school kids had to wait 40 minutes for the buses that were at the (Upper Elementary),” she said. “The high/middle school gets out 10 minutes before the (Upper Elementary) does. I think if they change the start and end time of the (Upper Elementary) they will cure a lot of issues. Every year the first couple days of school the buses are always off schedule, that is normal. But there is a lot more to it this year.”
Transportation Supervisor Val Palethorpe agreed Tuesday was more chaotic than normal. She said one major change was the closure of Stanton Elementary School, leading to pupils being shuttled from Central Montcalm Elementary School in Sheridan to the Upper Elementary School in Stanton before being bused home.
Palethorpe said delays also were caused by parents wanting to make last-minute drop-off and pick-up changes. She said bus schedules were posted with children’s names and times on school buildings well ahead of time.
“We were open all summer long and they (parents) wait to change until the last minute,” she said. “I’m not rerouting my whole bus at noon.”
Palethorpe said Superintendent Jacob Helms and building principals worked with her to ensure all students made it home safely and correctly. She said Wednesday went much better.
“I appreciate the parents’ cooperation last night (Tuesday),” she said. “I apologize that we were 45 minutes late. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it that bad.”
Karen Palmer-Sowles of Greenville said her child’s bus was 40 minutes late Tuesday. She called the bus garage after 30 minutes and was told there was a new route with a new bus.
“I had to tell my 8-year-old at the last minute that she was now riding a new bus,” she said. “What if I had planned on being at work at 8:00? Some notification from the garage would’ve been nice.”
Lori Smith of Greenville had the opposite problem. She said her child’s bus was 10 minutes early and only stopped for “about 2 seconds.” She ended up driving her child to school.
Transportation Director Joe Knight said Tuesday was the most hectic day in his 21 years with the school. He said Wednesday went much better.
“There were some glitches so buses ran a little bit late, plus we’re taking more time to make sure they’re taking the kids where they need to go,” Knight said. “Our buses ran late, later than ever. Everybody got home safe and got to the right place.”
The Tri County school board voted Aug. 8 to privatize district transportation. Bus runs also were changed to single runs. The repercussions of that vote were felt Tuesday.
Kim Alexander of Howard City said her children were scheduled to be home at 3:40 p.m. but didn’t arrive until 4:50 p.m. This was after they had boarded the bus at 6:25 a.m.
Kathy Kerslake of Howard City said her children were supposed to be home at 4:22 p.m. but didn’t arrive until 5:50 p.m. She said her 10-year-old was on the bus a total of almost three hours.
“That’s outsourcing for ya!” she said. “People are making excuses for this, saying it’s the first day and so on, but this should’ve been worked on over the summer and practiced over and over. Summer consists of three months — use it to practice and get things in order!”
Amy Guthrie-Stevens of Howard City said her children’s bus broke down at the high school and she was never informed.
“Couldn’t they call the news and have it posted on a bulletin like they do with school cancellations?” she asked. “Why make people wonder when they can’t get through on the phone?”
Superintendent Al Cumings said the district definitely experienced transportation problems Tuesday due to students getting on the wrong buses, as well as a bus that wasn’t working.
“The school and administration is working to solve these issues in order to provide safe and efficient transportation for students,” he said. “Parents are correct in their statements and with the lateness of students getting home are disappointed in how we operated our transportation to start the school year. We at Tri County need to improve this process to make sure we are doing the best for all students. This did not happen, which is disappointing.”
Cumings said school officials are now making bus tags for all kindergarten through fifth-grade pupils so they can easier locate their correct bus.
“We will continue to work on improving our processes to help Tri County improve,” he said.