CARY: Wake Co. says bus plan had successful start - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Wake Co. lauds success of school bus plan

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WAKE FOREST, N.C. -

Thousands of traditional calendar students headed back to class Monday, and there were a few bumps along the way in Wake County as the county launched a new bus plan.

Earlier this year, Wake County school officials decided to consolidate bus routes to help save money and to make the routes more efficient.

Wake County School Superintendent Jim Merrill said with increased enrollments and decreased budgets, Wake County Schools is trying to tighten up and make the most of tax dollars.

Monday afternoon, the district said "99 percent of buses arrived within 15 minutes of the bell."

Wake County said 910 buses picked up 75,000 riders - a record for the district. 

"We encourage parents to be patient during the first weeks of school as students and bus drivers become familiar with the routine," the system said in a statement released at 2:24 p.m., before the afternoon buses rolled.

But with the new routes being used for the first time Monday, there were a few hiccups. The issue is a significant one in Wake County, which struggled to implement a new bus plan in 2012. The problems that year, which were evident the first day of school, contributed to the firing of Superintendent Tony Tata.

At Richland Creek Elementary School, the newest elementary school in Wake Forest, there were problems with buses getting to school on time. Four of the five buses were late.

Many previous bus routes were changed to eliminate a lot of neighborhood stops.

“If you get extra stops out of the way that are too close together, you should deliver students quicker to school and home in the afternoon,” Merrill said.

Merrill said some parents complained the new bus stops weren't safe, but school officials haven't found that to be true.

“Some folks have used requests to check for safeness, to try and get special consideration,” Merrill said. “We've had literally hundreds of requests to consider stops, many of which were already safe.”

The transportation department will assess all of its bus routes and times. School officials should have a better idea of how things went by 1 to 2 p.m. Monday.

Another issue for Wake County is hiring teachers.

“We have over 200 more vacancies today than we had this time last year,” Merrill said.

That means there will be substitutes in the classrooms this week as the system continues to look to hire full-time teachers.

Parents who found problems with the bus plan were quick to share their frustrations. Jillian Blue, who has a child at North Ridge Elementary, said the Orange Bus was late "and a lot of students had to find rides for themselves." Blue said she took her daughter herself.

"The bus stops are too far for people that are not driving," Blue said. "What do you want, safe kids or to save money? I don't want something to happen to my daughter."

And Ben Fulmer, whose daughter goes to Leesville High School, said, "My daughter called me and said, 'Dad, the buses aren't coming and it was already 7 o'clock. It was already 15 to 20 minutes late. Andso I pulled myself together and I got in the long lines on the way to school to get her there and she just made it. I came back to the neighborhood, back to the house, and the bus had pulled up on the students were getting on. And that was a full 50 minutes later."

Besides some buses running late, there was also an accident involving a school bus in Holly Springs on Avent Ferry Road. Thirty students were on board, but none of them injured.

If you had any bus issues this morning, let us know. Email us at newstips@wncn.com.

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