Mom calls 911 after waiting hours at bus stop for her children, wants Lee County schools held accountable

Reporter: Breana Ross Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
school bus
Credit: WINK News

After waiting for hours at a bus stop for her children, a woman says she had no choice but to call the police. A mother of three kids under the age of eight says she had to get the police involved.

Marlene Burns says she had no idea what happened. “I had no idea. ‘Was the bus in an accident?’ ‘Is it a different bus driver not familiar with the route did they get off at a different stop?’ No communication. My mind was going everywhere,” Burns said.

Burns waits at the same bus stop every day for her children to get off. Most days, the bus is prompt and pulls in at around 2:30 p.m. But, on Thursday, that didn’t happen.

“I called finally at 3:20. I called the transportation line and they told me the bus is in route. It should be there momentarily,” said Burns.

So Burns waited and waited and continued waiting. Finally, she decide to call the transportation line again. She was told that her kids were safe. But, at around 5:15 p.m. when dispatchers stopped answering her calls, she feared for the lives of her children.

Burns is the parent of three Trafalgar Elementary School students. “At that point, I proceeded to call 911,” said Burns. “No communication. My mind was going everywhere. I probably should have called 911 a lot earlier.” The Cape Coral Police Department was able to help the mother find the bus. Her kids finally made it home around 6 p.m.

The School District of Lee County told WINK News that the driver of her kids’ bus got overwhelmed because he was driving a combined route. So, he decided to pull over and ask other drivers for help.

Rob Spicker is a spokesperson for SDLC. “This was just the perfect storm of a shortage of drivers, a shortage of staff and one bus that just really was the epicenter of that day’s issues,” said Spicker.

Spicker also mentioned that there is a shortage of dispatchers as well. “They were just over… overworked yesterday. They didn’t have enough time between the two of them to really focus in on that one bus,” he said.

That response wasn’t good enough for Marlene Burns. She hopes parents will join forces to hold Lee County schools accountable. She believes it’s the district’s responsibility to get kids to and from school safely.

“Five-year-olds on the bus, no access to a restroom. They are riding all around Cape Coral. 4 miles from the school, 4.2 miles from the school, four-hour bus ride,” Burns said.

Burns says she understands there’s a driver shortage but believes what happened to her three kids is unacceptable. She relies on the “Where’s the Bus” App to track her children, as many other parents in Lee County do. When the dispatcher switched her children to another bus, she was no longer able to track them.

The School District of Lee County admits it is about one hundred drivers short. But, the district says, it has done everything it can to fill those jobs.

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