At the May 22, 2018 Leon County School Board meeting, elected officials voted 5-0 to move forward with transportation system changes recommended by Superintendent Rocky Hanna.
These changes are now causing significant anxiety with parents just before school is set to begin. However, when the issue was brought before the LCS Board there was little concern about any potential problems.
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The minutes of meeting show that Manny Joanos, Director of LCS Transportation, addressed the school board and highlighted the benefits of changing the system by employing new GPS technology. What was not discussed was the elimination of “courtesy routes”, which are bus routes within two miles of schools.
Joanos told the LCS Board that the new system would provide:
- for the rebuild of a 10-year old GPS system and it’s rapidly becoming obsolete
- navigation software for drivers, which is really important when you have substitute drivers that come in and don’t quite know the route
- access to real-time student ridership information for parents.
- enhanced school bus routing for maximum route management and efficiency and,
- approximately $1,268,000 in savings every year.
LCS Board member Roseanne Wood, just before the 5-0 vote stated, “you know we’re in the modern age and it’s really exciting. Thank you for your work on this and I appreciate the Superintendents leadership to say let’s do it.”
Six months later, in November 2018, Mr. Joanos would send out a letter to parents informing them of plans to eliminate “courtesy routes”. At the time, Joanos said the move would impact approximately 10%-12% of LCS ridership or approximately 1,000 students.
However, in our next report we will reveal the contents of a power point presentation – given to the LCS Board – that indicated the elimination of “courtesy routes” would impact significantly more than 1,000 students.
Why would anyone listen to advice on child safety from a man that hid from his parental responsibility until sued? 10 years dodging child support, now this.
Why wouldn’t they have asked parents within the radius if they were willing to pay to have their child still use bus transportation? I mean it like $0.50 reimbursement they are not getting per student, so maybe if the parent was willing to offset that? I bet there would have been plenty. Also for those that are on free reduced lunch maybe some funds could have been found to offset for those that couldn’t afford it and we’re on the lunch program? Just saying….maybe other ideas could have been considered before going right to cutting those stops altogether. I mean..this new technology is so awesome it could keep track of the child who rides for billing purposes, right!? Smh
This should never have been an issue…ALL children should have been provided the opportunity to ride the bus… that is just Elementary 101 — and Rocky and the School Board messed up big-time on this one.
I think it’s time for the parents in the courtesy Zone to call Morgan & Morgan.
Bad idea School Board! Small children, grade pre-k through grade three recognize their bus by their driver. A school bus driver in elementary school begin and end a young child’s day. A routing number will never do that. Raise he’ll parents.
This past July a 50K settlement was approved by the Board for a bus driver. If the Board had taken the time to understand the story behind that settlement maybe they would have realized how severe the bus safety issues are in the County and how there is a complete lack of concern for bus safety by this administration. The public information about the settlement says the bus driver was paid because someone didn’t follow policies and that a supervisor was fired. There are persons within LCS who said that the bus driver was involved in a horrific fatal crash out veterans memorial drive in 2018 in which a driver of an SUV was killed. There were children on the bus. The bus drivers on that route are and were forced to make an illegal turn around where the accident happened to shave 5 minutes off the route. Even though it was widely known to be dangerous, LCS continued to force drivers to make that turn even after the accident. Drivers quit because they didn’t want to jeopardize their lives or those of the children. But it gets worse. After the accident it was blamed on the dead man, presumably allowing his estate to be sued for insurance purposes and allowing LCS to avoid liability (and keep using the illegal unsafe route to save money). Mysteriously all footage from the 15 onboard cameras just before the crash to right after the crash is missing. If someone interviewed the bus drivers you may find there is a knowledge and belief that the dead man was not responsible for the crash. And the supervisor was not fired at the time, just suspended for a week. So, like everything with this school district, this is not just one mistake that will blow over because someone wasn’t thinking. What is happening to our kids is the result of systemic incompetence, complete lack of concern for safety and the desire to cover up and pay people off instead of fix a problem. LCS has no intention of keeping your children safe, if they did, they would not have covered up the details of this accident, continued doing what they were doing and paid a settlement to keep people in the know from talking. And if they cared about the safety of children they obviously wouldn’t have made this route change at the very last minute, when it is too late to fix it. It was intentional to wait until right before school started. The Board needs to exercise oversight.
Hopefully, LCS will reevaluate the routes paying close attention to the bus rides for some students that are over 1 hour. My child’s 30 minute bus ride is now at least a 60 minute bus ride home. It is clear they have added more bus stops to my child’s route from when I last checked on Thursday when it was 42 minutes, and she was the 18th bus stop under her route number (which is probably in the 20s since he stop drop off time has been pushed back by 18 minutes since Thursday). They must have added a few more stops to her route because now it 1 hour…and she isn’t even the last bus stop! It appears they must have merged a few routes into one route.
As LCS is adding bus stops, they need to look at the bus routes to ensure students who live in the county are treated equally and have equal opportunity and access to public education the other students. I hope that bus stops on her route will be dropped due to lack of use, but as it stands now my child is discouraged from riding the bus home. So LCS may loose a rider that they actually receive funding for.
My child’s bus ride home had been on average 30-35 mins. (eventually 20 mins when bus stops were dropped) This new efficient, cost saving system has my child arriving home well over an hour after school ends, and she is the EIGHTEENTH bus stop. I hope that many of those stops are dropped. It maybe efficient for the program to merge 3-4 bus routes into one route so other buses are available to head to an elementary school, but unfair to my child, and other riders on the bus who live further away from their school. Most of the other buses leaving the same school drop off students at their last bus stop in their route between 7-15 mins, and 2 of the buses drop off at their last bus stops at 28 mins after buses leave school.
Then, the morning bus is a different bus number with a completely different route is no better. Parents have been offered no details as to how the system operates so they can adequately prepare their child. Their child may not even have the same bus driver from the morning who saw them get on the bus which can be a comfort to many children. No child likes the feeling of wondering if the bus will know where they are to go if the route home is completely different. If a student has a different route with a different driver in the morning than in the afternoon, how will the driver know which bus stop the student gets off at, especially a child with a disability who doesn’t need or use an ESE bus? How will the driver know the student is on the incorrect bus? Will a student have a scan card as suggested by the Oct 2018 letter? Will parents be able to have real time access via an app or FOCUS to see if their child boarded and exited a bus? Will LCS reassess their routes to ensure that all students are treated equally in terms of their access to their education, eg students who live further away from their schools aren’t treated less than equal to other students who use the LCS transportation. What strategies could parents use for their child to memorize their bus routes? Obviously they can remember a route id number for their morning bus, but that same route id number can be a completely different route in the afternoon. LCS recently stated they were moving to students understanding route id nos similar to public transportation and other school districts. StarMetro has an online map of the stops with stop times, and the routes have unique names so it is not to be confused with other routes. This would have been nice to have created for parents to teach their children the routes rather than teaching the a route id number.
We have been told to be patient with this transition through a video on social media, but it is a struggle when very of the details little has been shared to parents. I am disappointed on how they rolled this out. They had the entire summer to seek input from parents, figure out bus stops, train drivers, and educate parents.
This is a bad move shame on Rocky and the school board! Manny, please fix this!