Still waiting on that bus

Don’t expect bus routes to get any shorter any time soon

By ELIOT DUKE
Of the Record staff
Posted 4/23/21

Of the many challenges Harnett County Schools faced when reopening its campuses, bus routes proved one of the most difficult to overcome.

Coordinating dozens of buses, covering hundreds of miles, …

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Still waiting on that bus

Don’t expect bus routes to get any shorter any time soon

Posted

Of the many challenges Harnett County Schools faced when reopening its campuses, bus routes proved one of the most difficult to overcome.

Coordinating dozens of buses, covering hundreds of miles, carrying thousands of students under normal circumstances relied on a lot of things going right on a daily basis. Throw in social distancing and capacity limitations, and the task became ever more complex.

With every school in the HCS system now back to in-person instruction, five days a week for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last March, bus routes grew longer and more unpredictable. The situation isn’t expected to improve before the start of next school year.

“Our buses are still a struggle,” HCS Superintendent Aaron Fleming said. “We’ve been able to put more kids on the bus but our bus routes are still going to be long for a little while.”

Initial social distancing guidelines for school buses drastically reduced capacity, as only one child could be seated every other seat, and that was before HCS fully reopened its campuses this month. Drivers regularly take on double and triple routes before and after school, causing some students to wait extended periods of time to catch their ride. Fleming said drivers would be dealing with that scenario for the foreseeable future.

“We still won’t have full loads on buses,” said Fleming. “They’re better than they were a few months ago, but it’s going to be awhile. It’s my hope that once we get back this fall that will be eliminated. I think for the next month and a half, it’s going to be a tough go.

“Because you do have a lot of double routes, the day your kid is dropped off could be 30 minutes later the next day.”

In response to a question from school board member Joey Powell regarding any immediate remedies HCS could offer to alleviate the strain, Fleming said a lack of substitutes and social distancing requirements make the situation harder to resolve.

“As the governor begins to open more up, we can put more kids on the bus and that will help a little bit,” Fleming said. “We have been able to put more on the bus, but I really think that for the next month and a half, that’s kind of going to be a thorn in our side. We get through that, get to the fall and reset and we’re back to normal.”

Eliot Duke can be reached at eduke@mydailyrecord.com or at 910-230-2038.

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