Busing issues continue to plague Columbus' Summit Academy Schools well into new school year
Some students at a Columbus charter school are still waiting to be assigned a bus to take them to and from school nearly seven weeks after the start of the new academic year, while buses for other students are not reliable.
Staff and parents of Summit Academy Schools in southeast Columbus are demanding answers after about a third of their students are often left waiting at the bus stop.
Shawna Blake has three girls attending Summit Academy Schools who rely on busses provided by Columbus City Schools for transportation, but she said the busses this school year have been anything but reliable.
“One of my students should have been grandfathered over with a route and they don't want to take her some most mornings, but they'll bring her home. And then my middle schooler just got a route last week and they haven't been able to bring her home a couple of days. And then my first grader, she doesn't have a route at all and they won't add her with her sister who comes at the same school at the same time, “ said Blake, whose children all have learning disabilities.
Blake said she calls the Columbus City School's transportation department daily in hopes that one day someone on the other end of the line will have a solution to her children's busing nightmare
While the situation is beyond frustrating, it's also dangerous.
“You don't want your kids sitting on the side of the street waiting for an hour-and-a-half to two hours waiting for a bus. Anything could happen to them, so I fear for them and worry about them waiting on the bus. Is the bus going to come? And I can't be in two places at once, “ she said.
Because of the inconsistency of her kids' busing, Blake said she lost her job.
“I was going to work at three o'clock in the morning so that I could get home in time to get them up and get them to school and then do my second shift. I go in at noon, which is earlier than they wanted me around one or two, but I couldn't do that and be able to pick up the kids so they ended up letting me go because they wanted somebody that could do their hours that they requested, but I couldn't get,” said Blake.
Cheryl Elliot, the principal of Summit Academy Community Schools, said about 30 families are still trying to get a daily bus assignment after the start of the new school year. She was told a new routing system is to blame.
On the day we showed up at Summit Academy Schools the afternoon bus did come to take students home, but Elliott said it's definitely hit or miss.
“You know parents are calling I'm sending emails to try to get answers so I'm hoping that we can get this resolved but I know one parent last week was you know just begging for a date of when their child would get transportation and there was no answer you, “ Elliott, who was been with Summit Academy for 15 years and in education for 22 years, said
Elliot says the problem is so bad that 27 of 30 middle school students do not have a bus to take them home, so Summit Academy started an after-school special program to provide care for students until their parents can pick them up hours later.
“And it required us to start an after-school program, which was not in my budget to do that, so that we could at least ease the pain of the parents a little bit. So we are here till 5:30 or 6 every night, allowing parents to get off work and to come pick their children up, “ she said.
A spokesperson with Columbus City Schools sent an email to WOSU which said it's transportation department is working to solve all the issues brought to their attention. The district told WOSU, the busing problem is directly tied to a shortage of bus drivers.
For Shawna Blake, whose children are sometimes forced to miss school due to the transportation issues, said the suggestion that the ongoing bus driver shortage is to blame for these issues just doesn't fly.
“But for my kids' situation, that's not the case because there's already a bus and there's already a driver for the route. So why isn't she got a route? They just won't put her on the list? No. They haven't done anything to put her on the list no matter what I've said or argued and told me to slow my roll and calm myself down. The last time I was on the phone with them. How many times would you say you've called them trying to fix this? Every day for the past eight weeks? Every day, every day, “ Blake said.