Lee County parents stressed over school transportation

Reporter: Emma Heaton Writer: Matias Abril
Published: Updated:

Parents are worried sick over Lee County School District’s transportation, wondering when, or if, their child will make it to and from school.

“It’s just a nightmare,” said Atricia Mercado, a parent.

It started with a shortage of school bus drivers, but that is far from the end of it.

Many parents all over the county are writing in to WINK News asking for help, saying their child is late to school almost every day because of transportation issues.

Or worse, their kids don’t make it to school at all because the bus simply doesn’t show up.

Parents feel they can’t rely on the district’s transportation. They expect the district to do something about it.

“I have to leave him home and say, ‘Hey, Demetrius, make sure you’re sitting out the door waiting for this bus to come,'” said parent Stephanie Robinson.

Demetrius is in the third grade. Stephanie Robinson is his mom. Demetrius’ assigned bus is supposed to arrive at 6:45 a.m.

Stephanie has to get to work by 7 a.m., so she leaves and uses the Where’s the Bus app to track how many miles away the bus is.

When it gets close, she calls and tells Demetrius to get outside.

“6:45 rolls around. There’s no bus. 7:22 rolls around. There’s no bus,” Stephanie said.

Recently, Demetrius’ 6:45 a.m. bus arrived 35 minutes late and only 15 minutes before Demetrius’ first class, which begins at 7:35 a.m. sharp.

Stephanie said that most days her son doesn’t make it to class on time.

Then, there are the days the bus doesn’t show up.

Stephanie said that Demetrius sometimes doesn’t get to go to school at all.

Stephanie expressed her fears if this issue continues to happen.

“He’s going to be held back eventually because he’s going to miss so many days of school,” Stephanie said.

“My responsibility is the education of a child,” said Superintendent Christopher Bernier. “Last year, over 6,000 students per day were late. We can’t have 6,000 students starting the school day every day late to school.”

It’s no wonder parents all over Lee County are frustrated, anxious and concerned over what’s supposed to be a dependable service.

“There are days that the bus doesn’t pick them up in the morning at all,” said Brandy Sutton, a mother. “There are days that they sit at the bus stop sometimes 30 minutes, an hour before the bus finally does come. Actually, this morning, they sat there for 35 minutes and the bus never came.”

Mother Ashley Lanz said that when her daughter’s bus does show up, she sits there for an hour and forty-five minutes just to get to school.

“How do we expect them to go to be on a bus for almost two hours and then go to school and be productive?” Lanz said.

Lydia Rivera said she’s given up. She just takes her children to campus and is late to work because she just doesn’t trust the Where’s the Bus app.

“Like, I’ll try to watch for the bus when it gets here so I could go get them at the bus stop, and it’ll say it’s like seven miles away, but the bus will actually be here, so it’s just not working,” Rivera said.

Dad Dan Maurer said it stresses him out watching the app, waiting for his daughter’s bus to show up.

“You get either the wrong bus or the buses and tracking if it’s moving or not,” Maurer said.

Maurer said that despite the obvious issues, he has heard nothing from Lee County schools.

Every parent WINK spoke to said the same thing.

“We’re supposed to be able to rely on the bus system to be reliable and to know that our kids have a way to and from school every day,” Sutton said.

WINK reached out to the Lee County School District on four different days in four different emails, asking if the district has a plan to address parents, if there is a plan to fix the bussing issue, or if they’re even talking about solutions, but nobody responded to address questions or parents’ concerns.

But, over the weekend, the school superintendent attended a news conference with the NAACP and spoke a bit about transportation.

He talked about middle school students not seeing their teacher first period last year due to being late and said that is not acceptable to him, parents or the school board. Then, he mentioned the issue has since improved.

“We are starting to arrive on time for middle schools, and what is also happening is in the evening, I’m not getting the text at 8:30 at night saying last student delivered. I’m getting it at 6,” Bernier said. “Yesterday we had bus routes done as early as 5:30 from a 4, 4:15 releases. We’re getting kids to school on time because they have to be in school in order to learn. I know it sounds simple, but it is that simple.”

Bernier also said at that meeting that he can’t say more than he’s already said and can’t change transportation right now, even if he “waves a magic wand.”

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