Midtown Raleigh News

Wake reports fewer school bus problems

Apex Middle Schooler's head for their bus on Apache Lane in Apex, N.C. Monday August 26, 2013. The on time bus was quite a change from last year when the bus often showed up very late or not at all.
Apex Middle Schooler's head for their bus on Apache Lane in Apex, N.C. Monday August 26, 2013. The on time bus was quite a change from last year when the bus often showed up very late or not at all. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Wake County school officials say that bus service has been improving since Monday and that they’re seeing far fewer problems than last year.

There were 861 telephone calls on bus issues Tuesday through 2 p.m., compared with 1,299 during the same time period Monday, according to Renee McCoy, a Wake schools spokeswoman. During last year’s bus problems, former Superintendent Tony Tata had said they received about 2,000 calls a day during the few days of school, while conceding that many callers were getting busy signals or messages that voice-mail boxes were full.

“Our numbers are way, way down,” McCoy said. “We’ve been responding to what people have been telling us.”

Despite one account that a parent got a busy signal Monday, McCoy said no one else has reported that problem. Wake installed a new automated phone system for this school year that’s supposed to ensure callers don’t get a busy signal while seeking answers to the most commonly asked questions. It also allows people to leave voice-mail messages.

But McCoy said they’re strongly encouraging people to use the online comment form on the district’s transportation website, ( www.wcpss.net/parents/transportation/) to provide comments. She said it has allowed them to more quickly respond to issues.

McCoy said there have been 380 online comments Tuesday through 2 p.m. She said the 1,241 phone calls and online comments Tuesday were a mixture of questions, requests for stop changes, missed stops, missed buses and compliments.

McCoy said that problems such as missing children, missed stops and missed buses are a high priority, while requests for a change in bus stops are being treated as low priority unless they involve traffic safety issues.

Wake has been trying to avoid a repeat of the problems that marred the start of last school year, when there were widespread complaints about buses coming late or not at all.

Some parents said the bus situation had improved since Monday.

Angela Smelcer said the bus came on time Tuesday to take her child to Apex Elementary School. For much of last year – and again on Monday – parents in Smelcer’s neighborhood turned to carpooling children when it became clear that the bus wasn’t going to get the students to school on time.

“Wake County is working it out for us, and for that we are extremely thankful,” Smelcer wrote in an email message Tuesday.

But Paul Morea spent a second day wondering when his son’s bus would come to take him to Davis Drive Elementary School in Cary. Morea said he got a call from the school district telling him his son’s route is a priority to fix.

“We’ll wait to ride it out the first week and see if some of the kinks are worked out,” he said.

6 minor accidents

There have been six school bus accidents since Monday with no students being taken to the hospital by authorities. But police say that in only one case has the bus driver been determined to have been at fault.

On Monday, a school bus driver making a left turn did not yield to an oncoming city of Raleigh pickup truck, according to Jim Sughrue, a Raleigh police spokesman. Two students reported neck pain and were taken to the hospital by their parents.

No cause has been determined yet for an accident that took place Monday near East Cary Middle School.

But in the other four accidents, police in Raleigh and Cary said the bus drivers were not at fault. They said drivers of the other vehicles did things such as running a red light, failing to yield to a bus and trying to pass a turning bus.

“We want the public to be aware that there is precious cargo on board the buses,” McCoy said.