October 31, 2008
County Pledges To Improve On Bus Safety Issues
It is safe to say that the start of every school year is the most hectic time for parents, students, teachers and school administrators all around the county. But nothing seems to stir the emotions more than student transportation and bus stop issues which were once again a hot topic at the recently held series of 2008-09 town hall meetings led by Hillsborough County’s Superintendent MaryEllen Elia.
After parents fired questions at Elia, which included the problem with not enough bus stops, having unsafe bus stops on busy streets, changes on routes, overloaded busses and a seeming lack of transportation efficiency of drop-off and pick-up times, there was no doubt changes would have to be made.
One of these parents, convinced the system is flawed, was Becky Goodman, whose daughter was mistakenly put on the bus at school and dropped off at a bus stop without a parent to meet her.
According to school officials, as far as the recently raised issues are concerned, such as the overloading as well as the installation of safer bus stops, problems have been resolved, and the department has made the necessary changes.
Elia told parents that the district did investigate more than 200 bus stop complaints and moved about 80 stops already, while most concerns had to be referred to Hillsborough County Schools General Transportation Manager John Franklin, who said, during a phone interview, that the issues parents were concerned with at the start of the year were legitimate and have been addressed.
“Parents can rest assured that the department is working hard to make sure that the kids are safe,” Franklin said.
Franklin explained that safety is the department’s first and foremost goal and focus, while acknowledging that there are situations that do arise every year.
“We have installed additional bus stops and given parents some additional information on the changes that were made,” Franklin said.
The way this is done, according to Franklin, is through the department’s Bus Stop Safety Review Committee, set up not only to fix the problems already on the list, but, also, the ones that might arise in the future.
While not trying to minimize the transportation department’s responsibilities and the errors made at the start of the year, Franklin said that it does take time to work out some of the bugs, especially when parents do not follow the directions given by the school their children attend.
According to Franklin, children are often left at a certain bus stop without notifying the department under the assumption that their children will get to school.
“While we will not leave a child alone at the stop, it does create some overloading problems,” Franklin said.
To work on these and other safety issues on and off the buses, the department sends out field supervisors as well as certified traffic safety inspectors to evaluate each route on a regular basis.
Franklin said that the budget cuts are not affecting the way the department operates.
For more information, changes or questions, please visit www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/transportation or call 272 4602.