District Transportation Sees Bumpy Road on First Day of School
A Stevens Point district school bus takes students home on Tuesday. (City-Times photo)
By Brandi Makuski
School district officials on Tuesday said the 2014-15 school year got off to a rocky start, thanks to several problems with student transportation.
On top of working out the bugs for each bus route for student pickup- something customary on the first day of school- Superintendent Attila Weninger said some buses suffered mechanical problems on the morning of September 2nd, causing delays in some student pick-ups. Those problems, Weninger said, came after a new software system failed to recognize location data on over 1,000 students and the realization that junior high students and their parents had no information on busing just three days before school began.
Weninger said the district began changing over to a new software system called Lynx back in May, but that conversion was successful for summer school busing. Why the new system failed before the new school year isn’t yet clear.
“Conversion processes are difficult at best,” Weninger said on Tuesday. “In my view there is a no fault, no blame situation here.”
Weninger said the software glitch was internal and had nothing to do with Skyward, the district’s software service company.
The district normally sends postcards to parents about two weeks prior to the beginning of school with busing informaiton. Those postcards did not get mailed this time around, leaving district leaders scrambling at the eleventh hour to get details out to parents.
When asked why the district didn’t keep parents in the loop via social media, or via area news outlets, as soon as the problem was known, Weninger said, “We should have. That should have happened. I take full responsibility.”
Weninger also apologized for any inconvenience the situation caused parents, and has released a letter to parents explaining the situation further, available on the district’s website.
Sometime on Saturday, Aug. 30th the district employed two temp workers to contact each affected family by phone and also released the busing information on its website, including pickup addresses and times. No names were listed with the pickup information but after some parents complained the list was taken down.
“That’s how many other district do it, and we didn’t have any concerns for student safety over releasing that information. However I heard from some- just a few- parents who had safety concerns,” Weninger said. “So we contacted the Portage County Sheriff’s Office, the Plover Police Department and the Stevens Point Police Department to ask if they would put out extra patrols and just let their officers know the situation.”
Stevens Point Police Chief Kevin Ruder said area law enforcement was already out in high numbers during the first week of school but they did drive by school pickup locations for extra safety.
“We gave all the officers a list of names and pickup locations and asked them to roll a black and white through there to make parents reassured we weren’t far away,” Ruder said. “We handled it just by letting the officers know the situation; we have everyone out the first week of school for extra reminder for drivers to slow down anyway, but we had them do extra patrols in those areas.”
For now, Weninger said he believes the bulk of the district’s transportation problems have been solved and students should know how they’re getting to school.
Multiple phone calls to the district’s transportation department all day Tuesday went unanswered.
City-Times will continue to follow this story.