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Barrow BOE Backtracks on Bus Route Changes — Why Were Parents Caught Off Guard?

With more media sources than ever in Barrow County ready to let the public know what is going on, one has to wonder why the public was caught off guard by the changes.

The new rules concerning bus routes in Barrow County proved to be harder to implement than had been thought by the Board of Education. Tuesday night’s meeting found the board room full with parents concerned about the safety of their children. Following a tense meeting, and go back to the older system.

With cuts being made in funding, hard decisions are necessary. We are accustomed to bus transportation for our little ones to assure their safety in being transported back and forth to school; we have learned to depend on the school system to provide the necessary bus transportation. At this time of the year, I always try to remind everyone to be careful as they are driving in the school zones, but now, we must be on high alert to be sure we do not miss seeing a child who might happen to be walking to school.

I am an outsider not being part of the discussions regarding the budget and the necessary cuts that have been made in this school year. From across the country we are hearing that during these tough economic times, there are cuts having to be made everywhere. , fewer teachers and coaches having to drive buses for sporting events have greeted parents and students as this new school year begins in Barrow. Is this the new normal in our school system? Are we to the point when changes come down from above that parents have no say as to how or when these changes will impact their children? I don’t know the answers to those questions. Will these changes impact the education of the students?

Unfunded mandates require standards be met as they are imposed on local school systems, it causes school system officials to find answers as to how to meet requirements with smaller amounts of funding available to carry on the school system. I do not envy the people having to make the decisions, but somehow there does seem to be a major disconnect in being able to communicate these changes to the parents in a timely manner in order for them to make the necessary changes in their schedules being sure their children make it to school on time and in a safe manner.

With more media sources than ever in Barrow County ready to let the public know what is going on, one has to wonder why the public was caught off guard by the changes. Was the information not given out in time? Did the media fail to report the changes? When were the decisions made to make all of the changes that are now coming to public light? I do not know the answer to any of these questions. From where I stand, the great need that has surfaced is to communicate all changes to all the stakeholders as soon as possible.

How should changes made by BOE be communicated to the public? Tell us in comments. 

Follow Ray Newman on Twitter — @RayNewmanSr.

Joyce Jacks August 13, 2012 at 04:13 PM
When I was in school these same rules applied (no bus riding if you lived within 11/2 miles from school. I walk from school every day. We didn't have any sidewalks and we survived. Part of the problem is we have a lazy bunch of kids growing up now. So you want the buses to pick up everyone. The budget has to be cut somewhere. Do we cut out teachers? That wouldn't be good. So the next step would be to cut out ALL sports programs in the middle schools. Let the kids play recreational football, baseball and football. The Y and Rec dept have teams. This would save a lot of money. If we don't find ways of cutting the budget then MINE AND YOUR TAXES WILL HAVE TO GO UP. Wait a minute, only homeowners will be paying taxes. If they set a rule if you can't speak English you can't attend would save money to.
Concerned Mommy August 13, 2012 at 04:27 PM
My child is one of those.. we were told at open house to be out at 7:15 for the bus, that the time would fluctuate a bit. We were not told the pick up location had changed.. non of the kids in my neighborhood were told as they were all waiting at the end of their driveways.. after 45 mins of my daughter waiting in the driveway I decided to take her to school and as I exited the neighborhood I saw the bus waiting at the entrance for the kids. I will not send my 2nd grader to the entrance of the subdivision to wait for the bus. This is not safe! Once again, there was a communication failure! I've called the number listed in the twitter feed for help and its disconnected. I've called the number on the Barrow Co Education/Transporation website and its busy. I've text the number on the twitter feeds with no response!!
Rachel Ann August 13, 2012 at 04:29 PM
My friends daughter went to catch her bus and there was a bus at the other neighborhood and the kids from her neighborhood were running too catch that one. A bus didnt even come to her neighborhood. my friend ended up taking her to school. Started her 1st day in highschool very tense and nervous. Way to go Barrow. my other friends daughter is 11 and they r supposed to walk almost a mile from home to catch bus on Carl Bethlehem. Yea not safe. Im sorry but we live in a world were there r so many crazies and these children r being put at risk!!! my babies r too young for school but if this continues I will home school and ive already heard from many parents who r alreadt considering it . This has nothing too do with who speaks English and who doesnt. This is a County Wide problem and if theae children r American citizens by birth regardless they deserve a right to an education. And all of these kids deserve a Safe way too and from school! They need to find new ways too cut budget not in our school systems. Maybe in the city water dept,or the tag office or in the court house. Where I have seen many people sitting and twiddling their thumbs! Get it together Barrow. Dont leave it up to the media. Send notes too ALL PARENTS THATS HOW IT WAS AND THAT system works. These recordings from schools wanting u too go online or check twitter.,seriously people. In this economic time. Im sure most people dont have internet access!!
Kate Charbonneau August 13, 2012 at 04:38 PM
"Lazy" children is not the issue. Are the families whose children are no longer being picked up at safe location or not being picked up at all get tax breaks or are we paying the same as the families of those children who are being picked up in safer locations closer to their home? Why, in such difficult times, does the superintendent accept such a dramatic increase in salary? Why does this bus issue reach the parents less than one week prior to the start of school? Now, I completely understand that changes have to be made, but as it is in any business, success only happens when changes start at the top!
Kate Charbonneau August 13, 2012 at 04:41 PM
And for those of you who don't have children in school and are not truly concerned with this issue...image the Friday before school starts being told of the changes and the representative from the Transportation department NOT knowing the route your children will be on OR the times they are scheduled to be picked up/dropped off?? It's a little unsettling to say the least. It's not like the start of school was a big surprise to everyone-we all knew it was coming!
Ray Newman August 13, 2012 at 04:50 PM
From what I am hearing about this issue the BOE has more than a communication problem. The solution to this problem does not need to be delayed. Something needs to be done about it now.
M Fowler August 13, 2012 at 05:14 PM
I have contacted everyone I can think of today including the Fire Marshall to see if single exit neighborhoods are allowed to have the entrance blocked during the times that parents have to wait with their elementary shook age kids. I want to keep this on point but have to wonder is Joyce had to walk up hill in the snow both ways,there has been a massive population increase in the past few years and traffic in the area is much worse. My children's safety is more important than middle school sports! I too had to rush the kids to school after seeing that the bus never showed up.
Kate Charbonneau August 13, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Thank you, Ray, I couldn't agree more. Joyce, I mean no disrespect, but even if you are only 20 years older than our elementary school children, the number of vehicles on the road has increased dramatically, not to mention the size of said vehicles. The population increase in Barrow county is among the highest increases in the state of Georgia over the last 5 years alone.
Cat August 13, 2012 at 05:34 PM
@Joyce-We live within a mile of my daughters' elementary school. I do understand on where you are coming from on having everyone that lives close to walk, but times have changed. I will not allow my daughters to walk or cross on Highway 11 (it's just too busy of a road that has too many fast drivers). Would you allow your children or grandchildren to do that? My question about this morning is that for some reason there were at least 5 different buses that came through my subdivision, and only 2 picked up. So what where the other buses doing? Don't they practice their routes before the school year starts?
Stephanie Sanders August 13, 2012 at 05:35 PM
My child attends the CCPA. He waited 3 hours for a bus that never came. We were suppose to receive a call last night telling us the time and bus stop location. We never got that call. The CCPA have their own routes this year instead of being shuttled. At open house the drivers were unable to tell us the bus stop locations or time they would be by our homes. We were told we would be called on Sunday with the info, since the school only has 100 students and not all would be riding the bus. I had to leave work to take my child to school. The transportation deptarent was unhelpful when I called and texted. I was told I would receive a call back, still nothing!
Ray Newman August 13, 2012 at 06:30 PM
I will be interested to know if anybody at central office of BOE will fix this problem before the children start getting out for the day. Buses should start rolling again soon.
Concerned Mommy August 13, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Buses are rolling now from what their twitter feed says. BOE clearly does not care about our kids. The BOE confirmed for me today my 7yr old daughter has to walk over 1/2 mile to get on/off the bus. If there was any care or concern for our children from the BOE, there would not have been salary increases and our children's education and safety would be priority 1. We can all agree, that is not the case!
Kay Elford Biancini August 13, 2012 at 07:30 PM
"lazy"is not the issue. My son runs 4 miles 4 times a week, plays football and has a healthy view in life. He's recognized publicly for outstanding kindness and not only shows respect but is respected. So Joyce please remember you will be judged for how you judge. Pity a person for being so narrow minded that people are just like them. Thank goodness we aren't!! My children are not spoiled, they are loved that is why we are fighting for their safety, others safety! Whether one rents, owns or lives with family someone is paying the mortgage and in turn paying taxes. So to say taxes aren't being paid is, well, just not true.
Concerned in Barrow August 13, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Currently 4:50pm and my elementary school bus has still not arrived. School let out almost 1 hour and 20 minutes ago. This is ridiculous. This needs to be dealt with by the BOE, the transportation department is only doing what they were made to do by the BOE after Wanda Creel made these changes. If we want it changed we have to have our voices be heard. Please call the office of Wanda Creel to let her know we will not put the safety of our children at risk.
JC August 13, 2012 at 09:03 PM
my six year old was dropped off at 4:56. FOUR FIFTY SIX. School was out at 3:30. I understand first day kinks to be worked out, but this is SERIOUSLY unacceptable. The school told me I couldn't come pick up my son even though his bus was still sitting in front of it at 4:30. I texted the bus line with no response. Twitter was very positive and chirpy, "we want everyone to be safe!" I am absolutely livid.
Ray Newman August 13, 2012 at 09:34 PM
From the comments it sounds as if the afternoon is worse than the morning. All day to work out a problem and it is worse. Something is wrong with that!
ANON MOM August 14, 2012 at 12:20 AM
This is the result of people waiting until the last minute to fight for their children. These cuts were detailed in a board meeting that went well into the night in May. The results of this meeting may not have been on this website, however, they were on the other two local papers' sights. Parents had ALL summer to work out travel arrangements for their children. The school board DID NOT wait until the last minute; we as parents did. Furthermore, we can call it unacceptable, however you cannot expect the school system to come up with a plan in less than one week to re-do all routes without hiring additional drivers. When you wait until the last minute, this is the result! Because of people waiting until the last minute to raise hell, my children's bus arrived 15 min. early this morning; leaving more than half the neighborhood children. PEOPLE: WAKE UP, STOP DEMANDING WELFARE IT'S CALLED A PRZ FOR A REASON AND STOP LYING ON CREEL (SHE DID NOT GET A RAISE AND DOES NOT GET A VOTE)
Kate Charbonneau August 14, 2012 at 12:24 AM
I have had to take some time to calm myself in order to communicate intelligibly. Understanding the kinks of the first day and even the first week is not what troubles me, it's the manner in which the transportation of our children was handled today. I followed the "twitter" newsfeed and was aware that delays would be severe...By 4:30 a bus arrive at our subdivision and we are now being picked up/dropped off at the entrance. As the bus approached we realized the students would have to cross the main road so parents began to approach the south end of the entrance to ensure that traffic stopped-without any notice, no indicator used and no speed reduction the bus driver turned into our subdivision and literally missed me by about 12". No exaggeration-several neighbors were there to witness and suggested I call the Sheriff. Two children, mine, were let off the bus and we were told by the driver that she only had a couple of our kids. She said there were other buses coming. After turning around at the first intersection, the driver pulled over about 50 yards from the entrance where she remained for approximately 25 minutes trying to figure out who was on her bus and where she was supposed to be going. A second bus then arrive-EMPTY, with a supervisor on it. Apparently the driver didn't call in to report her whereabouts. Another 15 minutes later and third bus arrived with the remainder of our neighborhood students....upon returning home, I received a phone call from...
Kate Charbonneau August 14, 2012 at 12:27 AM
...from a concerned friend whose child COULD NOT BE LOCATED! The school said she got on a bus, but NO DRIVER responded that she was with them. Thank the Lord the child arrived safely at her home...while her mother was at the school waiting-as this is where she was told they would bring her WHEN they located her! Seriously, this is NOT ok! The start of school is not a surprise to any of us!!! This should not ever have happened. The frazzled bus drivers are making reckless decisions and someone is going to get hurt-I nearly did!
Kay Elford Biancini August 14, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Anon mom, never once did I ever accuse dr creel or any board member of pay raises not was I disrespectful I mane call. I respectfully presented the facts and statistics at the board meeting. I have respected them, yet never with held my name from anything I've had to say. I call out poor attitudes leading to hostility and inacurate assumptions. I'm sorry you're so angry that people want for their child to get to and from school safely. My children were driven to school and rode the bus home. Yes major hiccups, which will be ironed out. Sorry for your pent up anger and hostility.
ANON MOM August 14, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Kay-if I reply to Ray, why would you assume I'm speaking to you? You are not the only person commenting on this site. Ray is raising legitimate questions and my point is that the school system didn't wait until the last minute. Never did I accuse you of anything! I have no pent up anger, hostility, no poor attitude and would love to know of my inaccurate assumptions. My point then and now is: stop waiting until the last minute!
Wanda Rice August 14, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Those you that had such horrible bus service this morning, were you able to get in touch with the Transportation Dept? If you didn't (like me) did you physically go to their office? I understand for many that option would not feasible, however, I can report that after I showed up in their office with my concerns and displeasure, my daughter's bus stop materialized in a more proper location. (Walking down Hwy 82 .4 mile with no sidewalk AND the bus comes back by our house and neighborhood -speeds reach 45-60) Not only did the area manager make the changes to the bus route while I was sitting in her office, she also called the driver to make sure he was aware of the changes. If Twitter, email, and phone calls do not produce the action desired...make a personal appearance! Our children deserve every bit of protection we can give them!
Angela Smith August 14, 2012 at 01:35 AM
I bet they all have internet accesss.
Candy Primavera August 14, 2012 at 02:11 AM
Safety is the true issue; my son's bus dropped him off about a 1/2 mile from the house after school; however, the morning route has bus stops throughout the neighborhood, which probably only takes 2 extra minutes; is saving a few pennies on gas worth our kids safety. Let face it, most of the families in our area have two working parents, so the majority of our kids are coming home to empty houses, do we really want them walking through the neighborhoods alone; times have changed, we all know that isn't smart, our schools priority seems to be money and not the kids safety .
concernedmom August 14, 2012 at 07:22 AM
Again, I uinderstand some delays on the first day. But My child did not get off the bus until 518. Almost 2 hours after school let out. Hoe embarrassing for the county. Attempting to change something that was perfectly fine to begin with. This was a complete fail on behalf of the school system. I appreciated the Twitter Feeds and the phone calls we received, but it doesnt account fot the lack of planning and the parents feeling of their child being stuck @ school for more than hour after release. Not to mention those parents who work @ night and needed to get their kids to babysitters ETC. I just think better planning should have been implemented. Then not to mention the safety factor of having our children walking to the front of neighborhoods. Has anyone looked lately to see HOW MANY PEDIFILES live near your house. Come on people. This is not 1980's anymore.
Ray Newman August 14, 2012 at 10:03 AM
We will see how this day goes in the rain! Praying all will be safe. Slow down in school zones.
John August 14, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Why the kids having to stand up on the bus. My child was told he would have to stand up so that all the kids would ft on the bus.
Candy Primavera August 16, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Yesterday my sons bus didn't show up to pick him up in the morning; so one of the other parents took him to school along with all the other kids at the bus stop, which I was completely unaware of until I got home after work. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate one of the other parents stepping up when our school drops the ball; however, this type of situation could be dangerous.
Kate Charbonneau August 16, 2012 at 09:23 PM
I have to give credit where credit is due...not all of the kinks are ironed out yet and no, I'm not please with the new changes, BUT Wanda Young and the transportation department along with all of the teachers and administrators are working very diligently to make this as right as they can. I don't agree with how this was carried out, but as a parent I will take it as a hard lesson learned to make myself more aware of what is happening with our funding and what is going before the BOE. I think a strong parental presence at each and every BOE meeting is the only way to avoid things such as this from happening...I understand they are reaching for "Transparency" on the website, but not all parents know where to go. A system needs to be put into place notify parents of meetings and agendas. If we can get call blasts about everything that is happening in our schools, there is no reason why the BOE can't set up something similar. I don't want to "fight city hall" as the saying goes, and I don't want the BOE to be viewed as the "enemy"...we need to find a way to reach common ground. Thank you, Ray, for opening this discussion!
Ray Newman August 16, 2012 at 11:36 PM
From the comments and the way things are going it is certain that something needs to be done to improve the communication to the parents. Parents need to stay engaged with the BOE, by attending the meetings and staying aware of what is going on.

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