Sunday, August 28, 2011

SCHOOL BUS BOOT! Columbia parent complains about "unprofessional" student bus service

An old policy, newly enforced, without notice to parents
COLUMBIA, 8/28/11  (Op-Ed) --  As Columbia Public Schools (CPS) started last week, parents in several neighborhoods got an unwelcome surprise. 
Their children were permanently kicked off bus routes they had ridden successfully last year, but not for bad behavior. 

"I have learned now, through a First Student Bus representative, that students who are within 2 miles of their school can no longer have the bus service they had earlier due to overcrowding," parent Nicole Fulcher (left), a local veterinarian, explained in a complaint letter to CPS officials.  "First Student [the school district's bus contractor] did not inform the parents of this change ahead of time.  Instead, we heard from our children, who were told to leave the bus.  As a Columbia resident, I find this lack of professionalism unacceptable."
District officials called parents to pick up their children at school after they got the school bus boot.  "The drivers had a list of names to rattle off to the students, of those who had lost their privilege to ride," Fulcher noted.  
Students could ride though -- for a price. 
"After calling the First Student bus company yesterday, I was told I had to physically go to their bus station on Clark Lane, fill out an application, and pay $72.00 per semester," she wrote.  "There would be a 4-5 day waiting period, after which a supervisor would call me with the final say.  How convenient!" 
Bus overcrowding has been a problem, First Student representatives say.  But the 2-mile trip limit -- a CPS policy -- has always been in effect, they add.  It simply hasn't been enforced until now. 
Though she recognizes that school bus overcrowding may be a problem, Fulcher finds herself angry with a communication style repeated among school district administrators many times over the years. 
"First Student and the public school system should have addressed this situation earlier," Fulcher explained.  Instead, "students are put last, and families are given an additional stress both financially, and timewise, to come up with a solution."
[Ed. Note:  This writer's daughter was also booted from the bus, with no notice of either policy change or sudden enforcement.]


  1. I am SO sick of the corrupt jerks at CPS screwing with our children's lives. If it isn't one thing, its another. They are playing politics with our kids lives. Any bets that kids that ride the bus w/in 2 miles of Alpha Hart aren't being forced to pay? CPS is manipulating parents by putting stresses on more affluent schools that aren't being put on lower income schools....b/c higher percentage of parents vote in those affluent schools and they will vote to give CPS more money to waste on gorgeous new admin buildings!!!!

  2. It would be financially beneficial if CPS would give up contracting with First Student for High School and Junior High School and issue public bus passes to students based on parents' abilities to pay.
    This would help both the CPS budget and offer some relief to the city's public bus budget problems.

  3. This is stupid. If CPS would just build neighborhood schools instead of monolithic buildings for 1000 elementary school kids, everyone could walk. Also, in the mix, is the problem at some schools (Mill Creek, Russell, Fairview) where the roadways are packed with people to pick up their kids INSTEAD of having them ride the bus. This could turn into an emergency management problem if there were an accident and a Emergency Responder could not get through.