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As transportation mess continues for LCPS, school leaders urge patience

Loudoun County Public Schools buses serve nearly 50,000 students. Times-Mirror/Alexander Todd Erkiletian
As parents alter their routines and drive students to and from school to avoid bus transportation issues, Loudoun County Public Schools officials are pledging to get problems sorted out.

For many parents, after driving back and forth to schools several times a day, the situation cannot be resolved soon enough.

In the first two weeks of school, Loudoun County students have experienced more than two hour-long bus rides, transportation safety hazards and missed connections due to a lack of communication from the school system.

Lenee Soto, a Waterford resident with children in middle school and elementary school, said she hopes changes are implemented soon. Her children are arriving to school late, experiencing long bus rides home and riding on overcrowded buses.

“I am forced to leave my work to drive four kids to elementary school and one to middle school on a daily basis due to the overcrowding, 30-minute late driver pickups and late arrivals to school,” she said.

Elizabeth Wagstaff of Purcellville attended a student services committee hearing on Wednesday to voice her concerns about an unsafe bus stop in her neighborhood at North Fork Road and Shelburne Glebe Road.

She said the roads are unpaved, narrow, with no sidewalks and blind curves, and she is hoping to appeal the bus stop with the School Board.

“The stops we appealed last year were reinstated this year. Safety is our primary concern. So many parents are now opting to drive. I witnessed a dangerous incident this morning,” Wagstaff said.

A parent in the Sycolin Creek district in Leesburg spoke at the meeting to say her bus stop is located in an area that is “putting the safety of our children at risk.”

“There needs to be accommodations for safety. Human involvement and common sense need to be used so we are not putting the safety of our children at risk,” said Lynn Kessler.

At Wednesday's committee meeting, School Board member and Student Services Chairwoman Debbie Rose said she personally takes great offense that parents would think safety is not a concern among school officials.

“I would never put saving a dollar over any student's safety,” Rose said.

Kevin Lewis, assistant superintendent for support services, told parents they are working diligently to address concerns.

Lewis said since the first day of school, 1,663 new students have enrolled in LCPS. They have received over 900 requests for bus stop evaluation, with multiple requests for the same issue.

He said there remians shortage of about 20-30 bus drivers.

Based on recommendations from Edulog – the transportation consultant hired by LCPS to review bus route optimization – Lewis said the board selected the low-impact option that reduced bus routes from 394 to a range of 349-372 and changed the start and dismissal times of 19 middle and high schools.

The maximum average headcount per bus run is 52, and the average run time is 17 minutes.

“Considering ridership, run and route changes, it is a work in progress the first 30 days of school,” Lewis said.

According to Loudoun County Public Schools spokesman Wayde Byard, all bus routes and stops are reviewed and adjusted each year as students graduate, enter the system and new schools are added.

“With these dynamic conditions, bus stop changes will be made and adjustments to the route and timing will be required as a result,” Byard said.

This year's changes were made in part because of the bus driver shortage, he said. Another focal point is to minimize inefficient double runs that were implemented as a result of the driver shortage.

“The length of the run and double runs are indicators of opportunities to improve efficiency, so is optimizing route logistics that allow more students to ride the same bus while maintaining an acceptable length of ride for the students,” Byard said.

Lewis said officials personally evaluate each stop and welcome input from people living in the local area.

“There is no one size fits all,” Lewis said referring to each individual case and situation.

“There is no easy way to make everyone feel comfortable. We are asking parents to help us with supervising students at bus stops,” he said.

In the meantime, parents with concerns about their bus routes are able to enter them online at https://webinter.lcps.org/ConcernRegistry/ . In addition, there is a school board meeting Sept. 12 at 6 p.m. at the LCPS Administration building, 21000 Education Ct., in Ashburn, and bus transportation will be on the agenda.

Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or on Twitter at @KarenGGraham.


Bus crash on Evergreen Mills. Helicopters on The way x3.

My apologies @DLJD. You just agreed with the other poster on selling the buses.

Please don’t refer to us as “snowflake” parents who have been inconvenienced. I think that’s an unfair statement. You don’t know everyone’s situation. Some parents don’t have the luxurious choice of putting their kids in private schools as you apparently have done. Some have no other choice but to rely on bus transportation, especially in the rural areas of western Loudoun. And some work for employers who don’t offer the flexibility parents would need to transport their children on a regular basis. Life is hard enough. Don’t start judging people because they are trying to voice their frustration with a situation you aren’t directly involved in.

Heard Wade on the radio news stating they’ve had less complaints this year then years past on transportation issues…Someone mentioned the link not working, of course, even if link is working who really knows where those forms go? I hope BOS remembers this during budget talks. About time some of those Chiefs are replaced with young people that will actually work.

My kid’s bus made two runs that were about 1/4 full, at most (elementary school). They finally did the smart thing and combined them.

Anyone remember when Bill Fox told us all that transportation was not a mandate part of public education?

Westernloudounresident, Yes I did respond to a post saying I formed carpools to get my kids to a school that was 20 miles from my home because it was true (and not all that unique for private school parents). I recall the poster that said “sell all the buses” - it was not me.

I do agree with Chris McHale that school officials certainly missed the mark and most definitely should have notified parents some time ago to enable them to make alternate transportation arrangements.

Ah…good old DLJD to grace us once again with his profound wisdom.

I believe this was also the same poster who responded to a previous article that we should just sell all of the buses and the same person who managed to get their kids to schools that were as far as 20 miles away using private carpools and without taxpayer assistance.

I retired after 19 years of school bus driving as a Special needs bus driver. No one, not even my lead driver or supervisor asked me why I retire 2 years early! They don’t care about drivers. I was not the only one who left. This much about the driver “shortage” They just use for excuse, but don’t do anything for a better valuated work place.

DLJD - You’ve completely missed the point.  It isn’t a matter of parents driving their kids to school, it’s a matter of officials failing at what was supposed to be accomplished.

Moreover, if the LCSB announced in July that they were canceling the bus service, parents would have time to adjust.  That’s obviously not the case here and parents are left to scramble. 

BTW - I don’t have kids taking the bus, so it doesn’t impact me directly, but I do have employees that have to change their schedules on the fly.

@heyyousleaze, I educated my two children without the benefit of public schools, so I would not mind if more parents took that responsibility on too (their children certainly would benefit from it). My point is, however, if parents don’t like the transportation system provided them for “free,” they can either drive their children to the public schools themselves, home school or move to a private school.

We DO care that our kids are in fact being transported to school in overcrowded, unsafe conditions.  We also care that you and your colleagues punted on this and paid our money to a bunch of faux experts to fix a problem we elected you to fix.  At the very least, someone ought to be suing the “experts” for our money back…

The link in the article is not working.  I, along with everyone else I know, have sent complaints to the transportation board, with no result.  The routes are ridiculous.  When we get a responses it basically is always “We will look into it” with no action.

Winter 2017-2018 should be SUPER fun!

“I would never put saving a dollar over any student’s safety,”. But that’s EXACTLY what Ms. Rose and her ilk just did. The shortage of bus drivers is all the evidence we need…a shortage well-documented due to the failure of LCPS to provide pay and benefits comparable to other school districts. Maybe that $8 million LCPS spent on new football fields would have come in handy…

@DLJD: the public schools, which includes the transportation, are taxpayer-funded. Are you suggesting that parents take the responsibility of educating their children too, since you take offense at anything being funded by taxpeyers…which ostensibly includes you?

Maybe Kevin Lewis needs to get off his butt and drive the bus routes to see the problems and not use software. Another overpaid Chief within LCPS.

Edulog is a bunch of people NOT familiar with Loudoun Co Roads. What a huge waste of taxpayer money and frustration for the bus drivers who know better.

“As parents alter their routines and drive students to and from school to avoid bus transportation issues ...”

A tragedy of epic proportions that these snowflake parents are inconvenienced by the responsibility of getting their own children to school instead of relying on the taxpayers to chauffeur them.

Why is it that no matter how bad you screw up in the government, nobody ever gets fired?

The money quote.  After bragging about how much $$ was saved by employing a bus route “efficiency” contractor, Debbie Rose has the gall to say that “I would never put saving a dollar over any student’s safety”.  Yet she complimented the new bus routes that have young kids walking on roads without any sidewalks over long distances. 

Debbie Rose can’t be fired soon enough.  Too bad we have to wait till 2019.  I just hope no kid gets hurt by these irresponsible routes.  And I wonder, if Debbie Rose, or her kids, had to spend 2 hrs on a bus each day in Eastern Loudoun, would those routes stay that long?  But it’s “good enough” for those Western Loudoun parents/kids I guess.

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