Martinsville schools facing bus headaches

MARTINSVILLE, Ind.- There are continuing transportation frustrations in Martinsville for parents and bus drivers. In fact, some tell us this week was the worst start to a school year they’ve seen.

This is the latest school district to have transportation problems as the school year begins. Some say students have been riding on buses for hours and some drivers say the situation is unsafe.

“They can’t get the bus routes down and we still have students who have no buses,” said driver January Robertson. She’s not happy with the past few days’ worth of transportation disorder.

“We got our routes two weeks before but they called us Sunday night at 4:00 to let us know they have updated our routes and everything had changed for Monday morning,” said Robertson.

Frustrated drivers showed up for a meeting tonight out the district bus barn wanting answers and a solution.

“They don’t have to change where the kids are going,” said another driver, Brandy Arthur, “what I want…is to put it back the way it was.”

The MSD of Martinsville brought on a new routing company in February, True Consultant Service. The district says it’s the same consulting company used in Muncie. Thursday, district officials did meet with drivers behind closed doors at the bus barn.

Before that meeting, the district said in a statement, in part, that district officials have been working around the clock to make changes to the system, adding that student safety is their top priority.

After the meeting, the district released this statement, in which it admits there are still several glaring problems but also acknowledges that some solutions have been reached:

“We were hoping to accommodate families by changing our bus route service to include two goals: 1) add walkers to buses 2) put the same age of students together on buses. Beginning in February 2017, we hired True Consultant Service to implement this task to be ready for this academic year.

True Consultant Service was highly recommended to us, and we attempted to create a new busing system to meet the needs of our parents. Unfortunately, the company was not able to accommodate us. We found out recently that both Munice and Perry Township Schools have experienced the same problems with the same company.

Our transportation director, his team, our technology team, and I worked over the weekend to manually assign bus numbers and routes to students because our consultant did not route all of our students. During this time we were repeatedly assured from our consultant service that remaining routes would be ready for the first day of school. They were not.

This week, our technology and administrative teams continued to work endlessly on assisting parents with bus questions while our transportation director and I worked to continue to assign students to bus routes. Our bus drivers worked hard to meet the changing needs of adding new students to routes each day.

At this time, we still have students to route, several of our buses are overcrowded, students are on buses for too long, and some pickup and drop-off locations are not deemed appropriate for students. We have listened to parents’ and bus drivers’ concerns and felt their frustration. After a meeting with our bus drivers, principals, and our transportation director, we all have decided to return to our bus route system from previous years.

Utilizing our previous busing system means that students in K-4 and students in grades 5-12 will ride together. Unfortunately, it also means that if a student was considered a walker to school last year, then at this time, they would again walk to school.

We realize that many parents will be unhappy with these changes as they wholeheartedly expressed their concerns about buses and their children who walk to school. Please know that we will work with bus drivers to incorporate age appropriate seat assignments to students. For example, Bell Intermediate students assigned to the front of the bus, John R. Wooden Middle School students in the middle and high school students in the back. For walkers, we will investigate how to include them on routes as we are able.

Our transportation and administration departments still have to finalize bus route details before we set a start date. We will contact you as soon as that date is selected.

I want to thank you for your patience during this time.

Best,

Dr. Michele Moore

Superintendent, MSD of Martinsville”

Fox59 News has also reached out for comment from True Consultant Service but has yet to receive a response.