Licking County News

Southwest Licking Jennell: Bus woes are being rectified


Southwest Licking Superintendent Robert Jennell said the district's transportation staff members continue to "tweak" bus routes following a problematic first day of school that was full of wrong turns.

On Aug. 19, some students arrived home hours late following confusion over revamped bus routes and new drivers who took wrong turns, leaving parents worried about their children and furious with district officials.

The problems particularly affected elementary students.

District officials scrambled to make changes, and one week later, the outlook was better.

"It's much, much better," Jennell said Aug. 28.

Jennell said the district is making constant adjustments to the routes to shorten ride times for children and a Pataskala route was added.

"We're tweaking (the routes) as we speak," Jennell said.

He said the area around the school buildings remains crowded in the morning and afternoon as parents drop off and pick up children. Unfortunately, Jennell said, some of the roads leading to the schools can only handle so much traffic before the area becomes congested.

"We have roads that get crowded," he said.

Jennell told the school board Aug. 21 district officials were not offering excuses for the confusion the first day of school, and particularly the afternoon routes, but he offered explanations as to why there were problems.

"The p.m. runs have certainly made the headlines," Jennell said. "Several of Tuesday's bus runs were obviously unacceptable in length. The district makes no excuses for those long rides."

The first contributing factor, Jennell said, were buses being held for too long at the buildings before being released in the afternoon.

"We were trying to accommodate too many kids at the last moment," he said.

Jennell said updated information on student drop-off points was incomplete.

"Part of the problem was we had incorrect addresses," he said.

He said he since has met with building administrators and transportation staff members to answer questions about bus routes.

"We had drivers that made a bad turn," Jennell said.

He said the district hired secondary drivers familiar with the area to help new drivers understand their routes.

"That has definitely improved route times," Jennell said.

Jennell said some parents were blaming newly enacted grade banding in which children in the same grades are grouped in certain buildings, with most facilities serving no more than two grade levels. He disagreed and said grade banding had nothing to do with the transportation issues.

"The reorganization was not the cause," he said. "Grade banding deals with the way things work inside the building."

Jennell apologized for the transportation issues the first day of school.

"We've learned from that and we're taking steps to ensure that doesn't happen again," he said.

Jennell said Aug. 28 the district would continue to adapt and make subtle changes to transportation "until people can set their clocks by the bus routes."