COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – Columbia County school leaders are responding to parents that claim their kids aren’t safe on the way to and from school.
Parents in a Facebook group said they’re concerned school buses are overcrowded, and one even sent NewsChannel 6 pictures that he said show the overcrowding.
“I put a post out on the Facebook group for my community, asking if anybody was aware of this and had any stories from their kids as well,” said Steven Sims, a Columbia Middle School parent. “And we had several families within the community say ‘this is a regular thing, it’s been like this for years.’”
Sims said his son told him students are sitting five to a seat, and standing in the middle aisle while the bus is moving.
“On Monday when he got home, he talked to me about how much he hated riding the bus,” he said. “I asked him why, and he said because it’s so crowded.”
After Sims called in a complaint to the school system on Wednesday, the transportation director for the school system, Allen Connor, said they looked at all the school buses at Columbia Middle – and found none of them to be overcrowded.
Connor also said they have a policy where teachers on bus duty check each bus before it leaves to make sure they aren’t overcrowded.
“That particular day, no one needed assistance and according to the principal, no one was standing,” he said. “But, the driver has a protocol in place to deal with that if it happens on their bus.”
He said all the buses can fit 66 students – which is three to a seat.
“If we do have a bus that’s overcrowded, we will actually – that very same day – make changes to the route and put the students on another bus because we don’t want to have any bus overcrowded for safety,” Connor said. “We don’t want to have kids standing. There is a state policy that says twenty percent can be over-capacity, so we could have ten kids standing, but that’s not our protocol and we rarely have anything like that.”
He also told us they’re not facing a bus driver shortage right now, and if they were, they have staff with bus-operating licenses on standby.
“We want to provide a great customer service to our parents, we want to provide a safe ride to our students to and from school, and we want them to have a great ride on the school bus,” Connor said.
Parents we spoke with said they aren’t buying this, and are asking their students to take videos and pictures from inside the buses as proof.
“It doesn’t matter to me how many people a bus is said to fit, if there is a child in the middle row, not in a proper seat, that bus is overcrowded. Period,” Sims said.
The next Columbia County Board of Education meeting is May 9th at 5:30 p.m. at the Board of Education building on 4781 Hereford Farm Road, Evans, GA.