Dozens of Wake Forest Middle School students soon will have school bus transportation to the local Boys & Girls Club, bringing relief to parents who had worried their children wouldn’t be able to participate in the after-school care program there this year.
Eighty children have been approved for a change from an assigned bus stop near their home to a stop at the Boys & Girls Club, school system officials said Wednesday.
The new stop assignments are slated to begin Monday.
For years, families have counted on Wake County public school buses to drop their children off at the Boys & Girls Club at the end of the school day, and the routes have become a given.
This year, though, families had to wait for several weeks beyond the first day of school to find out whether they would have service, leaving parents anxious about their children’s after-school plans.
At a recent meeting, parents burst into applause when they heard they would have bus service.
Vicki Frye, the mother of an eighth-grader, said she’s thrilled her daughter will be able to return to the club and the leadership program she’s involved with there after missing out on the first few weeks.
“She misses it,” Frye said. “She’s very excited.”
The change comes as Wake tries to improve the efficiency and timeliness of bus runs to students’ home bus stops. The school system this year dropped more than 100 bus routes and 4,000 stops in an effort to speed up bus rides.
Families can request a change in their stop – because of child-care arrangements or other after-school activities ‑ but the school system will wait 30 days to see how routes throughout the system are performing before making the switch. The system receives thousands of requests for alternate stops.
“We wait until after the first month of school to evaluate whether there is room,” said Wake spokeswoman Lisa Luten.
Luten said the 30-day requirement isn’t new but may have been applied more loosely in the past. Confusion about how the waiting period works also may have fed the uncertainty among Wake Forest parents.
Wake school system officials began talking with Boys & Girls Club officials months ago about the policy to prepare parents for the process. The clubs sent letters to families urging them to get their request for a reassignment in as soon as possible.
The families who will change routes on Monday applied for their change before school even began.
A family who has yet to apply for the service can do so at any point, though there are never any guarantees.
“Any parent can apply for additional service whenever they want,” Luten said. “I do know in Wake Forest there’s not very many extra seats.”
Hugh McLean, vice president of operations for the Wake County Boys & Girls Clubs, said he’s waiting to see how the busing issue will play out at the groups’ six other clubs in the county. Families have to apply individually for a stop reassignment, and he’s not sure how many did in various neighborhoods throughout the county.
Two weeks ago, after-school attendance at the clubs across the county was at 50 percent of expected levels, and at 62 percent last week, which McLean attributed to the wait for bus service.
Luten and McLean both said they’ll be looking for a long-term solution to ensure families have transportation to the clubs.
“We don’t have an answer, but we’re going to start the process,” McLean said.