Sumter Co. school board creates committee to tackle bus delays

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Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 11:05 PM EDT
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SUMTER COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - Facing widespread delays in the district’s school bus system, the Sumter County School Board created an ad hoc transportation committee to get the system back on track.

School board members Jeff Zell, Shery White, and Tarah Cousar-Johnson will work with the district’s administration to reduce the frequency and severity of delays to and from school.

A one-day inspection of the system in February found 27 out of the 74 buses arrived late to their respective schools (36.5 percent).

Sumter Co. schools bus schedule
Sumter Co. schools bus schedule(Sumter County School District)

Fifty-nine percent of the buses making stops at middle schools arrived late, compounded by nearly a third of high school buses and 13 percent of elementary buses.

Students lost anywhere from 5 to 75 minutes of class time.

The issue was worse for late pick-ups for students. 32 out of the 74 buses were late taking the students home (43.2 percent).

The percentage rate hovered between 40 and 50 percent for all three school levels, and students were picked up 5 to 110 minutes late.

One of the main issues the committee will need to tackle is staffing. The district reported being short 40 drivers in March.

RELATED STORY: Staffing shortage cripples Sumter Co. school bus system, costing students

Zell was named chair of the committee by board chair Ralph Canty.

“Solutions look like, no rock will go unturned. We have to look at are we competitive with our pay. Is the environment we’ve created with our buses enticing,” Zell said.

He said he is open to all options including altering student schedules to prevent the bus delays from cutting into “core curriculum” classes.

“I’m maybe a little ambitious on this but I would like to start putting things into place by the end of this school year and I would like to have a solution or multiple solutions put in place for the following school year,” he said.

Parents told WIS they are looking for improved communication and results.

Parent Erin Cottrill said her daughters are often delayed getting home.

“They come home exhausted, they’re not really in a good place to do homework at that point, a lot of times they have to take naps and it kind of eats into our nights as a family,” she said.

Cottrill said she’s reached out to the district.

“Going to the school bus system many, many times really did not relieve any issues other than them asking me to apply to be a bus driver. I’m a nurse, [laughs] I don’t know if I’d be the best,” she said.

Parent Elizabeth Barnett expressed frustration over a lack of communication about delays.

“We’re reasonable. We understand that you can’t poof snap your fingers and make drivers appear. We’re asking for communication and right now we’re getting a lot of finger-pointing. The district, the administration office is saying oh it’s the school, you need to contact the school, and the school is looking at the bus office saying oh you need to contact the bus office,” she said.

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