Could There Possibly be a Connection Between the Doubled-Up, Reduced Aides Bus Plan and Lost & Found Children?

updated 8/12

Thursday afternoon, a 7-year old girl was missing for “a short time” after getting on the wrong bus at Morris Elementary, and a 7-year-old University Place boy, who should have taken a van to the Boys and Girls Club but instead got on a school bus, was found around 8:00 pm, August 10,  in the 700 block of Triana Boulevard. Triana Blvd. is nowhere near University Place School. It is a good 2.5 miles away, in the Morris Elementary District, and between two fairly heavily traveled roads — not where a 7 year-old should be wandering alone after dark (not that there is any good place for one to be).

One report says the University Place boy got off the bus “15 stops on the bus route away from his home.” Another source reports that “Wardynski says the boy was dropped off in his neighborhood at 3:15.” I think when you are 7 years old, if you are 15 bus stops away from your home, you are  no longer in your neighborhood.

Both University Place and Morris are on the doubled-up bus route plan, a cost-saving measure.

I can’t remember two bus-riding kids going missing two days in a row at the start of any other school year, can you?

Something has changed. Is it Superintendent Wardynski’s doubling up bus route plan or Dr. Ed Richardson’s dictate to get rid of bus aides as a cost-saving measure? Both? Coincidences happen, of course, so possibly neither was a contributory factor, but such an explanation wouldn’t pass muster even in pulp fiction.

I can’t figure how this idea works into the cost-saving schemes:

Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski said he is pushing to implement a program called “Zone-R” that will help keep track of students.

 “We have GPS, we have video cameras on the bus. We really want full chain of custody of the child. There would be a swipe on or swipe off system as well. We would know in real time when the child got on and off.” said Wardynski.

Let’s review: In past years, Huntsville school children typically didn’t get lost on their way home during the first week of school; that’s why these kids’ troubles are news. Bus procedures changed this year to save money. We need to buy a high tech system to keep track of what child gets on what bus.

However, the HCS must save money, although, as Geek Palaver reminds us, with the Board deciding to pay Wardynski “a salary $55,000 over the minimum, with his hiring of a $60,000/year aide for himself, with his hiring of a CFO at a ‘nationally competitive rate,’ with his plans to hire the organization that ‘trained’ him to be a superintendent as a consultant at another $60k,” you can be forgiven if you think otherwise.

I see that Hampton Cove Elementary, one of the schools in Superintendent Wardynski’s double-up scheme, got their buses back after parents noted confusion in knowing when to expect their kids home. Well done, Hampton Cove parents. I’m impressed. Truly. Take me to your leader. He or she is someone who gets things done, and we — as a community — need help.

Hampton Cove leader, can you please come across town and work your magic with the University Place and Morris parents before someone’s child is found dead in a ditch?

P.S. For weeks, the HCS website pages “Safety and Transportation” and “Transportation” listed on the Directory page have been dead links.


5 thoughts on “Could There Possibly be a Connection Between the Doubled-Up, Reduced Aides Bus Plan and Lost & Found Children?

  1. Pingback: Is everyone entitled to an education? | Running Wolf

    • Sorry it has taken me a while to reply; I’ve been ill. All I know of the way the bus doubling up works is based on reports in the TImes and connecting the dots of what I’ve heard at Board meetings. Ed Richardson started this, in a way, when he noticed that the base rate for a bus was the same regardless of how many routes it traveled. Now, I assume that this rate doesn’t include mileage, gas, or driver hours, but that is simply my assumption. Richardson suggested that school start times be staggered, thereby enabling buses to make multiple runs, meaning fewer buses would be required. However, the objection to this was that everyone’s schedules would be affected. So Wardynski came up with the plan that for certain schools, the buses would make multiple runs, but school starting hours would be unaffected because the first batch of kids would simply be picked up half hour or so early, deposited at school, and then the remainder collected. And I guess the same thing would happen in the afternoon: some kids would leave at the dismissal time, and others would wait around.

      Now based on what happened at Hampton Cove, I guess that parents weren’t told which batch of kids their child was in, and so the ones whose kids were in the second batch started to get frantic (as I would have) when their child didn’t get home at the same time as he did last year. Just a guess, mind you.

      And my guess about the University Place/Boys’ Club mix-up is, if the Boys’ Club van had come only for the first batch, having not been alerted to the plan, and the little boy had been in the second batch to leave, then there would have been no van, leaving him with the instruction to get on the bus he came on, which may or may not have been driving the same route as it had in the morning. Again, just a guess.

      The Transportation and Safety/Transportation links on the HCS site are still dead links.

  2. I’m still unclear on how this move saves money. Nor can I see the benefit to the children if they are getting lost. Has there ever been an actual cost analysis done to see if the system is actually saving money under the doubled up scheme?

  3. instead of making well thought out and planned decisions they are taking poor steps to cover worse past decisions. it scares me that things may well get much worse before they get better. also sad that one of the higher income systems gets what it wants but the “poorer” systems are still suffering from poor school board choices and lack of planning.

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