Transportation troubles: MMSD parents concerned by busing issues

Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 10:36 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Late pickups, new routes and full buses – the concerns among Madison Metropolitan School District parents as the new school years gets underway.

Thursday was the first day of school for Jen Parker’s sixth grade son. She says they arrived at their bus stop 10 minutes early, prepared to make it to Spring Harbor on time. But the bus never came.

“The bus was supposed to pick up at 8:24 and we were down here by 8:14,” she said. “We waited for 15 minutes. And then we proceeded to walk back to our house. By the time we got to the to our house and I got him in my car and back down towards the bus stop it was already 20 minutes past when he should have been picked up.”

Parker says the late bus forced her to miss a morning week meeting. She learned when she dropped her son off, his bus was not the only one that was late.

Several buses were tardy to the first day. MMSD Public Information Officer Tim LeMonds says it had nothing to do with the bus driver shortage making headlines across the nation. Everything from first day of school pictures, parent questions and helping children board the bus for the first time contribute to the late pick up and drop off families may experience during the first few days of the new school year, LeMonds says.

“It just takes for us to understand... and have some patience and know that things will get back on track after those first couple days of school,” he said.

Still the unpredictable schedule makes it hard on parents like Parker. She says her son has ADHD and depends on a strict schedule to stay focused.

“We try to teach him to roll with the punches as much as possible but I think he was a little bit anxious, like, will I get there on time?” Parker said.

But timing isn’t the only concern. Jason Andrew, a Hamilton Middle School parent, fears the new bus schedule for his eighth grader poses safety issues. He says it forces students from the Shorewood Hills neighborhood to cross a busy street to get to the closest stop – without a crossing guard.

“We would apply for the bus pass and an exemption due to our, you know, the circumstances of not being provided a crossing guard to cross University Avenue that the status quo would continue,” Andrew said. “And then all of a sudden, that was just ripped out from us. Two days before school starts.”

Andrew says the updated Badger Bus route excludes families in his neighborhood because they live within a mile and a half of school. When Metro Transit was responsible for busing kids to Hamilton, he said the school would grant bus passes to qualifying families. But now that Badger Bus is taking over the route, some stops have been excluded, making it challenging for his kids to get to school.

“It’s not just about arbitrary metrics and numbers,” he said. “It just really upsets me that two days before school supposed to start, we get an email saying, ‘no, you don’t get a bus anymore.’”

Parents have also reached out to NBC15 with concerns about packed buses. LeMonds says consolidating routes will increase the number of students on a given bus in parts of the district, but not above the legal limit of 75 kids per bus.

If that happens in her area, Parker said she will rethink sending her son to school on the bus.

“With COVID, there is no way to properly social distance. I don’t care if they’re wearing masks or not, three children to one seat I don’t think that’s an acceptable solution to the problem,” she said. “I have hope that MMSD can fix and work out some of these issues sooner rather than later because I’m willing to give them the opportunity to do that. But right now I know I’m not the only frustrated parents in the district.”

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