26 September 2012

The Case of the Overcrowded Bus - PYHO

The facts:

  • Teddy has been back to school for 2 months.
  • We live 1 mile from the school.
  • A school bus is supposed to pick up the kids from our apartment complex at 7:36 for an 8 am elementary school start time.
  • A school bus is supposed to drop off the kids at 3:19 at the end of their school day.

The story:

Last year, Teddy was a car rider.  Not because of any problems with the bus - he seemed to enjoy riding it, the kids didn't pick on him and it picked the kids from our complex and dropped them off near the time they were supposed to every day.  No, he was a car rider last year because it became easier for me to drive him back and forth because of Pete's school schedule and the fact that Teddy didn't pay attention when he was walking down the drive to the complex with the other kids and would run out in front of traffic.  And I liked driving him back and forth to school.  I'd get a minute or two to chat with his PE teacher to see how he was doing and things like that.

This year, however, I decided that the bus was going to be the thing.  He was a year older, a little more responsible - and I was making an effort to bring him up to the stop and walk him (and about a dozen other kids whose parents were never there) down into the main part of the apartment complex.  Pete liked waiting for Teddy at the bus and Teddy had a few new friends at our stop that helped him enjoy his time there.

This was the plan.  And it would have been a good one.  If they didn't keep messing with the kids' in our complex's bus schedule.

At the beginning of the year, we would get to the stop at around 7:25, just in case the bus was early.  And we'd wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Finally, around 7:50, the bus would show up and, with the grid-lock of traffic between our complex and the school, they would consistently be late.  And the afternoons were no better.  Pete and I would walk up to meet Teddy at around 3:15.  45 minutes later, the bus would finally show up, the kids telling stories of how they had to wait for a new bus to pick them up.  And this wasn't a once-in-awhile thing.  This was happening every day.

I called the school system, registered several complaints about the delay for the buses and was told they were still working out things with the buses, that they had less drivers this year so they were trying to figure out routes and to please be patient.  So I was, steaming inside all the while.

When a note came home with the kids in our apartment complex stating that our kids were going to be moved to a different bus and we were given the new times, I was hopeful.  I was giving them another chance, because Teddy liked riding the bus and I liked not wasting gas in stop and go traffic.

For a little while, it did seem to do the trick.  The bus picked the kids up between 7:35 and 7:40 every morning.  They had time to get to school, grab breakfast if they were able, and settle into their classroom before morning announcements.  And in the afternoon, they would be dropped off at the stop between 3:15 and 3:30.  A little later than we were told, but not 45 minutes later, so I could handle it.

These last two weeks, I'm seeing the old patterns reassert themselves and I'm hearing disturbing things from the kids as they get off the bus in the afternoon.  Yesterday, the bus didn't arrive until 7:55.  And when I turned the corner a short time after it had left (on my way to the grocery store with Pete), I saw it sitting on the side of the road, no driver in the driver's seat and the bus full of kids, I was steaming.  They were already late.  What on earth was she doing?

But that isn't even what has me the angriest.  It's what has been happening in the afternoons.  The buses each go by a color and the kids line up according to that color.  Then they'll call the bus colors out two at a time so there isn't so much chaos heading for the buses.  The kids from our complex wait patiently in line with the rest of the kids on the Red bus.  Their color gets called, they walk out and get on the bus.  And then the bus driver turns to them and says, "Brighton Valley kids, you need to get off the bus.  It's too full.  Another bus will be by soon to take you home."  So the kids need to get back off the bus and return to the school to wait once more until there's a free bus that can pick them up and bring them home.

What I don't understand is why, all of a sudden, the buses are getting overcrowded again.  They have a roll of who lives where so they know how many kids could, at maximum, be getting on or off at each stop.  They know how many kids can fit on the bus (and there's a lot since they are long buses and they make the elementary school kids sit 3 to a seat).  So why is this, once again, a problem?  And why is it always our kids?  I've asked Teddy, and I've asked his friend, Landon.  There's never an announcement that other kids need to get off the bus because of overcrowding.  It's only our apartment complex.  And it happens at least once a week.

Of course, they don't bother to let any of the parents' know that they are making our kids' wait until someone else is free to take them.  We're still required to be there at 3:15 to pick up our kids, regardless of the weather or anything else.  And then we're required to wait.  And wait.  Because, of course, they can't drop our kids off in our apartment complex.  Supposedly, the bus has no place to turn around if they do (which is a lie, since I've seen them turn around inside there on other occasions).  So we are waiting on an access road next to a busy street to take our K-4 kids back to the safety of their homes.

I don't want to drive him to school or pick him up from school.  I want him to be able to spend time with his friends, Landon and Ashton.  I want him to have the experience of being a bus rider so he knows what's expected on buses.  And, selfishly, I want that bit of extra time it gives me not having to be at the school 45 minutes early so I'm not having to wait out in the street because the parking situation is abysmal. 

I don't think I'm asking for much.  Just for them to get their act together, stick with a route for our kids and stop treating them like extras who are just thrown to whoever can take them.  Because it's not fair to them, it's not fair to the drivers who aren't familiar with our route and it's not fair to us.

Acting Balanced