BY FAIMON A. ROBERTS III
Advocate staff writer
August 17, 2012
A week into the school year, some Catholic school students in East Baton Rouge Parish have waited as long as 30 minutes after school dismisses at 2:45 p.m. for a bus to arrive to pick them up and take them home, parents and officials said.
“We live approximately 3 miles from the school,” said Crystal Harmon, who has children in the fourth and sixth grades at St. Aloysius School. “The children have said their bus has not been getting to St. Aloysius until 3:15.”
She said the late bus arrivals mean it is taking her children 45 minutes to get home, even though they live a short distance away.
St. Aloysius Principal John Bennett confirmed that in several cases, buses have not arrived to pick up students after school until after 3 p.m. Buses have also dropped students off after 7:45 a.m., which is when school starts each day, he said.
“It varies from day to day,” he said of the number of late buses. “Today, we had six or seven late.”
Eight out of the 12 buses that carry St. Aloysius students arrived after the 2:45 p.m. dismissal time Wednesday, Bennett said.
“I have disgruntled parents,” he said. “I have more people coming to pick up their children.”
The increase in parent traffic has caused traffic problems on the streets around the school, Bennett said.
Bennett said school officials had contacted the East Baton Rouge Parish School System twice daily with updates on late buses.
Bennett also sent an email to parents of students at the school, detailing some of the problems.
“From the first day of school, the EBR Transportation Department has failed to deliver all of our students to school or pick them up from school on a timely basis,” the email said. “Our attempts to have all buses to arrive in a timely manner have yet to produce positive results.”
The letter said that if the situation didn’t improve, school officials could contact “the appropriate authorities.”
Bennett would not comment Wednesday on what the school might do if buses continued to run late.
“We will take other steps if we have to,” he said.
Almost 600 of the school’s 1,169 students ride the buses, which are provided by the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, Bennett said.
A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Baton Rouge confirmed that there had been problems with the buses at “several of the schools.”
But the Diocese anticipates that the problem will work out, Donna Carville said.
“This is just the first week,” Carville said. “They were definitely on top of it.”
There were also problems reported at St. Thomas Moore, St. George and St. Aloysius, said Chris Trahan, a spokesman for the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. He said officials are working to correct the problems.
“We have addressed the issues with some of our schools holding the buses back by even three to five minutes,” Trahan said. “We understand there is an issue, we apologize and we are working to resolve it.”
Trahan said the first couple of weeks are difficult for bus drivers because they are not sure yet which students will ride the buses.
Once drivers understand which students will ride the bus, officials can “tighten up the schedules and shorten some of the routes,” he said.
Catholic elementary schools switched to a 7:45 start time for this school year in an effort to help the parish public school system cut transportation costs.
Starting at 7:45 allows the parish’s buses to operate on a three-tiered schedule: public middle and high schools are picked up first and begin school at 7:10; Catholic schools are picked up second for a 7:45 start; and public elementary school students are picked up third for a 8:25 start.
The move allows the parish school system to use fewer buses and drivers, saving about $2 million this year, officials said earlier this year.