Cary, N.C. — Wake County's new school bus transportation plan aims to achieve higher efficiency and save dollars, but it had some children on the road for up to an hour when year-round schools started this week.
Andy Taylor's first- and third-graders had a 13.9-mile bus ride to Oak Grove Elementary, which is a 2.2-mile, 5-minute car ride from their Cary home. The map sent to parents before the start of school showed a 45-minute trip, Taylor said, but it actually took an hour.
"A lot of parents didn't realize until Monday and Tuesday when their kids started to ride these things how horrendous the experience was going to be," he said.
Taylor said the bus route meanders through different neighborhoods, which makes the ride long.
"They are taking kids in a variety of different communities and putting them on the same bus route. They just can't do it," he said.
Superintendent Tony Tata said that Wake County schools are running fewer buses this year and adjusted the start and end times of some school schedules to save $4.6 million and qualify for $3 million in efficiency funds from the state.
"Last year, under the old assignment plan, we had 933 buses on the road every day," Tata said. This year, about 80 fewer buses are running each day.
Taylor said children such as his are paying the price for that cost-savings effort.
"The efficiency argument is we need to fill buses, but you could be efficient without filling buses," he said. "If you wanted to fill every bus, you could, but you could drive around for hours getting kids on the bus (until) you have a full bus. There has to be a happy medium."
The school system is working out the kinks of the new bus routes and making adjustments for a number of schools, Tata said.
Taylor learned that his children's bus route will be revised, starting Monday. The new estimated ride time is 25 minutes.