Prince George’s County parents say overcrowding on school buses and changes to bus stop locations are causing unsafe conditions for students — but school officials chalk it up to start-of-the-year adjustments.
“All counties have to work to overcome it, especially at the beginning of the school year,” said Thomas Bishop, director of transportation for the Prince George’s school system.
But Bowie resident Rachel Edwards, whose 4-year-old son, Carson, attends High Bridge Elementary School, said her concerns have been met with resistance. Edwards said she refused to get off her son’s bus Wednesday when she realized that some children did not have a place to sit, even calling police to address the situation. She said the driver ended up calling the transportation department, which sent a second bus for the additional students.
“This is unacceptable,” she said. “This is not just about a bus being late. This is a safety issue. You have little children who are standing, and they don’t know that this is wrong.”
Lourdes Holloway, a junior from Mitchellville who attends Charles H. Flowers High School in Springdale, said her bus has been overcrowded too.
“I feel unsafe standing on the bus,” she said. “The bus can skid if it is raining. And when winter comes, it will be worse.”
Thomas Bishop, the director of transportation for the Prince George’s County Public Schools, said the county does not tolerate students standing on the buses, and responds quickly to delays and overcrowding. School officials said parents who have concerns with their child’s bus route should call the transportation helpline at 301-952-6570.
He said there are currently 970 bus drivers to handle 1,098 routes. He said the school board has approved additional funding, and the district will be able to hire 100 drivers by Jan. 1. In the interim, he said, some bus drivers handle one route, drop off students, then handle another route for the school; others combine less populated routes.
“Some students will be late until we overcome the driver shortage,” Bishop said.
Bishop said this year students are also being asked to walk farther to bus stops to prevent buses from having to make dangerous three-point turns, and said the number of stops has been reduced so bus drivers do not forget certain stops.
Mitchellville resident Donna Jordan said the stop on Parkside Drive and Woodbridge Court, where her son, Aaron, 14, used to be dropped off was safer than the new stop on Woodwalk Terrace and Parkside Drive because there was a four-way intersection.
“They’ve taken away a stop that would have been easier,” said Jordan, whose son attends Flowers High School.