KUSD bus service back to normal soon

KINGMAN ­ A shortage of bus drivers in the Kingman Unified School District that has caused revising schedules and some occurrences of overcrowded buses since the start of the school year may be corrected in about two weeks.

Dorothea Lauderdale has two sons that have had recurring problems getting their rides to and from school. Peter Taylor is a sophomore at Kingman High School North, and he has chronic asthma, she said.

David Taylor, her younger son, is a freshman at Kingman High School South, and he also has asthma, Lauderdale said.

A Miner story appearing Aug. 17 detailed problems the two students had on the first day of school. The bus they were to ride home from the north campus was full before they boarded and the driver reportedly told them they would have to wait for another bus.

While some students waited for that next bus, Lauderdale's sons chose to walk home, a trip covering more than a mile.

Her sons rode the bus on Monday and Tuesday of last week, despite overcrowded conditions, Lauderdale said.

"They rode the bus because the driver threatened to write them up if they didn't," Lauderdale said.

"On Wednesday, Peter counted six kids standing in the aisle with all the seats full and he walked away."

Neither of her sons rode the bus Wednesday through Friday, with her boyfriend taking them to school twice, Lauderdale said.

She does not want her sons riding any bus in which they must stand since the risk of injury to them would be greater in an accident or during a sudden stop.

Lauderdale said she contacted David Brown, KUSD transportation supervisor, about the ongoing bus problems. He reportedly asked her to be patient, as two new drivers were about to start running routes and seven more drivers were in training.

Brown said he joined the KUSD two days after the start of school and did not have 30 days to ensure transportation would get off to a better start. He acknowledged there is an overload problem on some routes.

"Our buses are capable of carrying 84 passengers, and we're running 61-63 high school kids on them," Brown said. "Kids today are not as small as they used to be, and we're having to sit three to a seat (on high school buses).

"Legally, we're allowed to do that. But the problem with high school kids is that an 84-passenger bus seems to be something different.

"We have 10 drivers in training, and as soon as we get them on the road, routes will be thinned out."

Four of those new drivers should be running routes next Monday, and the remainder should be on the road two weeks later, Brown said.

He is not aware of any student being written up by a driver for getting off or refusing to get on a bus on his or her assigned route, Brown said.

"Once a child is on the bus, it's our responsibility to keep them on it and deliver that child safely to his or her destination," Brown said. "Any driver warning a student not to get off is doing what he or she is trained to do."

Students that get off a bus after boarding and before it reaches its destination exercise their own choice in doing so, he said.

Betsy Parker, assistant superintendent of the KUSD, previously said the job market in Kingman has become more competitive. That resulted in fewer driver applications over the summer than expected to fill positions on established routes.

Lauderdale said she would not stand for a driver yelling at or threatening her sons under the current circumstances of bus overcrowding.

"I'm encouraging other parents to go to the next school board meeting (at 5 p.m. Sept. 13) and bring up the problems with buses," she said.