published Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Whitfield County Schools work to fix bus route woes

Whitfield County Superintendent Danny Hayes
Whitfield County Superintendent Danny Hayes
Photo by Ben Benton /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

After missing a Monday deadline to improve its new busing system, Whitfield County, Ga., schools officials are taking more steps to help ease the transition to a new system of bus routes that began Aug. 9.

The county eliminated 11 bus routes, switched from door-to-door service to bus stops and launched new software to streamline its bus travel system and save the county money. So far, however, the improvements have caused more chaos than efficiency.

"I think that so far people have been saying that it hasn't saved any time -- and they are right," said Eric Beavers, spokesman for Whitfield County Schools.

Issues with the new software appeared to be the cause of most of the complaints and problems during the first week of school, Beavers said. The software program was supposed to help students and parents find the closest bus stop to their address, as well as show the new bus routes.

"We knew it was going to be slow -- it was taking about three minutes, which is an eternity in today's society. The problem was it would sit there for three minutes, then it would come up and say, 'you have been logged out,'" Beavers said. "We were hoping that the software would be helpful. When that didn't work, we didn't have a real good backup plan. That's a failing on our part to plan."

The county also eliminated 11 bus routes -- saving the school system about $300,000, according to Beavers. Many of the buses running those routes were half empty, he said.

Whitfield County Superintendent Danny Hayes issued an apology Aug. 10 to students and parents.

"As superintendent of Whitfield County Schools I am embarrassed for the inconvenience and disruption of the education of our students," Hayes wrote. "I want to assure you that the chaos over busing these last two days does not meet my expectations."

Whitfield County is not alone in its move toward a more efficient bus system. The Atlanta Public Schools system also has received complaints after enforcing a policy that does not provide bus routes for students within the "walk zone," which is a one-mile radius of an elementary school or a 1.5-mile radius of a middle or high school, according to Keith Bromery, spokesman for that system.

With about 70 percent of Whitfield County students using its bus system, officials hope to have the problems worked out as soon as possible.

"Right now, our primary focus is getting these routes corrected," Beavers said. "We have most of the routes in place, we're just fine-tuning where the stops are. We just want to be sure we're getting our students where they need to be safely."

about Rachel Bunn...

Rachel Bunn is originally from Ellijay, Ga., and graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in magazines and history. While at UGA, she wrote for the student magazine UGAzine, served as news editor for the student newspaper, The Red & Black, and spent a semester studying British history at Oxford University in Oxford, England. She has previously worked at The Rockdale Citizen in Conyers, Ga., and The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the ...

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