Milton schools dealing with bus transfer snafus

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Neil Johnson
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

MILTON—Milton Superintendent Tim Schigur says an elementary school student who got on the wrong bus this week was safe the whole time, and the district and its bus provider handled the snafu according to a new communication plan established last year.

Schigur confirmed a student at one of the district's elementary schools got on the wrong bus during a transfer after the first day of school Tuesday at the district's bus transfer hub at Northside Intermediate School.

He said the student, a female, got off her bus at the transfer and then wandered back onto the same bus, which was bound to drop off rural students. The student lives within Milton, and needs to get on a different bus to get home, Schigur said.

At the bus transfer, the 500 students are supposed to have tags on their backpacks showing what buses to ride. The students then line up according to their buses, and school staff chaperones make sure the students get on the correct buses.

In this case, Schigur said, the student had her bus tag in her hand, not on her backpack. She got confused on got on the wrong bus, he said.

The bus driver realized a student was on the wrong bus and radioed the district and the school principal, who in turn called parents. The student continued to ride the bus for the entire route, and the bus driver dropped her off at her elementary school, where her parents were waiting, he said.

“Was it a snafu, sure. But was she missing? No. It was more of an, 'Oops,' and we communicated well and fixed it,” Schigur said.

Schigur said the district and Riteway handled the situation under stepped-up communication protocols developed last year after a male student got lost for over an hour after he transferred onto the wrong bus.

He said the district now is making sure every student who transfers buses has  bus tags clearly visible on their backpacks.

Last fall, parents raised concerns at several school board meetings over long ride times and students getting on the wrong buses during the bus transfer.

Some parents at the time questioned the district's bus transfer model, which runs on two routes and uses a central hub at Milton Intermediate School. Buses circle back to Northside Intermediate from their first route and do a second pickup there.

At the time, parents questioned whether it was appropriate to have young students dropped off and waiting at the Intermediate School to make a bus transfer and asked whether the district could change to a single-route bus run.

The board discussed the option last year, but preliminary district estimates showed having a single route could cost an extra $600,000 to $1 million, which some board members at the time said was prohibitively expensive.

“I wish there was a better way, (than the bus transfer hub)," Schigur said this week. "It's just not very cost-friendly to have the elementary buses looking at having the buses leave the elementary school and go right home.”

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