District 518 bussing concerns continueWORTHINGTON — School District 518 administration conducted a trial start and end time Thursday and Friday at Worthington Middle School to see if busses would be able convene at Prairie Elementary at a standardized time.
WORTHINGTON — School District 518 administration conducted a trial start and end time Thursday and Friday at Worthington Middle School to see if busses would be able convene at Prairie Elementary at a standardized time.
“We’ve always tried to get buses there (Prairie) at the same time but typically, that’s never happened,” said District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard. “Potentially, what we’re doing with the start and end time is to solve an ongoing problem.”
The problem Landgaard was referring to is buses arriving later and at different times at Prairie Elementary, creating a safety concern when some children were boarding while other buses were still arriving.
“We’d like to have all the buses stopped and in place,” he said.
Classes were scheduled from 7.50 a.m. to 2.45 p.m. Thurday and Friday. The experience “seemed just fine” WMS principal Jeff Luke said.
“A concern that we had was having so many kids in the building from about 30 minutes before school started,” he said.
“One of the highlights of being in middle school or high school is having time to socialize with your friends and that’s fine,” he said “It’s just that too long of a time can lead to problems.”
Implementing the schedule at WMS was not a problem Luke said, because on a regular day, most students were in school at 7:45 a.m.
“We have not been marking kids tardy these two days but after another day next week, we’ll have to start,” Luke added.
Administration has decided the middle school will adopt the new schedule until further notice.
Buses did not make it to Prairie Elementary as early as planned but the company is making some adjustments that should help, Landgaard said.
Earlier this year District 518 contracted with a new bus company — American Transportation — for the new school year due to a substantially lower bid presented compared to one by the now-dissolved Kempema Bros., the previous bus company for the district.
The first two weeks of school have been bumpy for the new company as well as for students and parents.
“We did have a few students that were missed the first day due to wrong addresses or incorrect information as well as a few students that just missed the bus,” Landgaard said, adding that the problem has since been resolved.
Additionally, there were some drivers who were not from the area and were unfamiliar with some routes.
American Transportation is in the process of hiring more local drivers.
Parent Brad Shaffer said that although his children were not picked up by the bus driver on the first day, “it was nothing we couldn’t work through.”
“It is my understanding that when the school board accepted the bid, a key person who handled a lot of the operations with the old company was not going to be there,” said Shaffer who is also president of the school board. “It is entirely possible that issues might have arose just due to a change in personnel.”
A concerned grandmother who did not want her name to be used said she had heard incidents of overcrowded buses.
“It doesn’t make a good impression especially when you’re dealing with little kids,” she said.
Landgaard said there was one case of on overloaded bus that he was aware of during the first week, but they rectified the problem immediately with the bus company.
“Before buses go out of Prairie, the principal will step on buses to check,” he said. “That’s how we know that buses that we’ve heard that were overloaded were not.”
American Transportation can be contacted at (507) 343-2000.