Local News

At a time of high gas costs, Durham school bus picks up one student

Posted August 18, 2008

— Find a way to make up the difference: that is the order given to school districts across the state as they look at budget shortfalls in the face of soaring gas prices. However, WRAL News witnessed a Durham school bus that picked up one student on its route.

“I love driving a school bus,” Stephanie Smith said.

Smith is on a year-round middle school route that has only two stops.

“One of them doesn't ride, so I'm actually picking up one (student) most of the time,” she said.

With a 30-minute ride to school, one student had the entire school bus to himself, WRAL witnessed. Smith says the same school has another bus, with a route not far away, that could pick up the student.

“If we get the time just right, we'll cross,” she said.

“We're very committed to making sure that all of our bus routes are efficient,” Scott Denton, transportation director for Durham Public Schools, said.

So WRAL asked Denton about the one student seen riding the bus alone.

“Now that you've brought that particular situation to my attention, we'll be looking at that today to see if there's something we can change today to fix that,” Denton said.

Denton says districts statewide are over budget because of higher fuel prices. He projects Durham could be $700,000 in the hole.

On a different route, WRAL News saw a bus pick up a student at a driveway, and then stop again just three driveways down.

“Those are the kinds of situations we're absolutely targeting and thinking about,” Denton said.

Denton also said that once traditional schools begin, the system will cut costs by reviewing ridership patterns and consolidating bus stops.

“But we're not going to compromise safety,” he added.

In Johnston County, “We operate the sixth-largest fleet in North Carolina,” said Billy Sugg, director of Johnston County Schools Transportation Services.

Getting through the year will require “understanding that some sacrifices have to be made to be able to provide transportation for a full 180 days,” Sugg said.

Many school districts across the state, including Durham and Johnston, are trying wherever possible to have elementary students walk 3-10ths of a mile from home to a bus stop. The guideline for middle and high school students would be half a mile.

“Wake County has had the 3-10ths and 5-10ths (of a mile), I'd say, going on at least 10 years,” Eddy Adams, Wake County's senior director for transportation, said.

Adams said that has saved millions of dollars.

“It pulled at least 95 percent of all of our buses out of cul-de-sacs,” Adams said.

Wake County is attempting to drive down costs even more by expanding the number of schools that utilize express bus service.

“We try to create no more than five stops along a run. Four is better, fewer the better,” Adams said.

Most districts say they will limit idling time while increasing maintenance and upkeep.

WRAL got a call Monday afternoon from Durham's transportation department. They said they have made changes, and the bus that was picking up one student will no longer be doing that.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • jetset Aug 21, 2008

    I think there is too much waste within the school system. You would be amazed if you attended a budget meeting within your county! Travel expenses for ONE school board member (and there are several in Johnston County) is greater than ALL the social workers (that travel daily) get the WHOLE year!! Yes, there is waste alright.

  • readme Aug 20, 2008

    Ummm isn't it an even bigger issue to bus kids to schools further from their homes in the grand cause of diversity?

  • sweetsea Aug 20, 2008

    Stop forced busing !!!!! Calculate how much that would save and I would bet that it would balance the books completely. You will not get much grief from the parents. The grief will come from the social engineers on the school board and in the administrative end. The kids suffer the long unnecessary ride and we pay unnecessary fuel costs. There are no winners because the political correctness agenda ain't worth squat.

  • iamforjustice Aug 19, 2008

    I don't see the problem. I pay property tax and so I pay for school buses. That is one of my buses and by god let the boy ride the bus to school and you all get over it. Geesh

  • VT1994Hokie Aug 19, 2008

    I am glad that this was brought to OUR attention. WRAL, I thank you. This is an example of someone not doing their job. Mr. Denton; "you are a day late and a dollar short." I bet there are many more in our great State that are doing the same thing as this system.

    Sure. This bus driver gets paid by the hours that she works. This should have never occurred. I wonder if she told the officials about this when she began this route? After the first day--that should have been the end of it.

    Another waste of our taxpayers $$$$$$$$.

  • TheAdmiral Aug 19, 2008

    I see no reason why a bus can not pick up kids every 1/2 mile. That gives each kid the opportunity to choose which 1/4 mile they will walk to the bus stop. Some will get lucky and have the bus stop at their house, some won't.

    I also do not like busses going into small sub-divisions. The kids should huff it to the bus stop.

    I have a bus that comes into my sub-division and delivers 3 kids in Wake County. THREE! When they could be dropped off at the entrance of the sub-division and walk home.

    It is very sick.

  • Tired_of_LIBERALS Aug 19, 2008

    It would be interesting to see a $ figure for the "cost per student mile" to bus these kids around the counties - including maintenance, graft and theft. I'll bet it FAR exceeds the "cost per student seat" in the schools.

  • pebbles262004 Aug 19, 2008


  • Tired_of_LIBERALS Aug 19, 2008

    Oh yeah! They do a terrific job - NOT!

  • superman Aug 19, 2008

    I dont care much for Durham. But actually you folks need to give them a break. Thousands of students and a large number of bus routes-- surely you realize that everything is not going to be organized and fine tuned during the first days of school. There are no miracle workers who can plan and assign every student to the best school route on the first day of school. For all you know-- they may have been aware of the situation and were in the process of correcting it along with the many other problems. The first couple weeks of school are always hectic for the administration as well as the students. Please dont be so quick to critize. Overall the schools do a terrific job.