Overcrowded buses, eliminated bus stops and poor communication were complaints brought forth by parents during a school board meeting Wednesday night.
Community members and parents attended the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board meeting to address the transportation woes experienced by their children.
Tena Dugan, high school parent, said she also spoke on behalf of other parents who expressed concern on social media.
“Now everyone here knows that I defend MUSD, but tonight I am here because I am a little angry,” Dugan said.
One reason stemmed from a photo posted by another parent on Facebook earlier that day. It showed a crowded interior school bus with students sitting in the aisle.
“There are three kids to a seat and those sitting on the floor. I think it’s completely uncalled for,” the post from Facebook user Jennifer Peterson reads.
Dugan said while some bus drivers packed students inside buses this week, others instead redirected students to the high school’s front office to alleviate congestion on the bus.
It’s an absence of consistent policy that Dugan said caused confusion and commotion in the office.
“This is not the first year this has happened,” Dugan said. “Our transportation department should be responsible for having a procedure that every single bus driver follows.”
Transportation Supervisor Tom Beckett said the district is implementing headcounts during the morning and afternoon to measure student loads on each bus.
Beckett said some children do not ride the bus in the morning, but do take it home in the afternoon, making the passenger population sometimes unpredictable.
“If we do need to do some adjustments for stops or reallocate kids to a different bus, that’s what we’re planning to do,” Beckett said.
Some parents at the meeting said they were caught off guard when they found out shortly before the first week of school that their children’s bus stops had been eliminated.
Two stops within walking distance to Maricopa Wells Middle School were removed, as per school policy.
“We did eliminate the route this year because we can actually not claim miles [if] we’re picking up students inside walk zones,” Beckett said.
Alicia Hanley said the summer heat was unsuitable for her son to walk over a mile home from school, when he would have normally been able to ride the bus.
“It was 109 degrees today at 4 p.m. when he would have been walking home from school,” Hanley said. “If I would have done that to my dog, somebody would probably be reporting me for cruelty to animals.”
Erica Brown’s son walked home from Maricopa Wells Monday afternoon in 108-degree weather, she said, after being transported by a school bus in previous years.
Beckett said the district is planning to reinstate the two stops at Maricopa Wells by Monday.
“Evidently the communication just wasn’t as clear as it probably should have been. If there was going to be a change, it probably should have been communicated earlier,” Beckett said.
Parents are scheduled to receive instant message updates from the district regarding the reinstated stops at Maricopa Wells sometime this week.