TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Parents in a Travis County neighborhood say their kids’ bus is too full, and it’s forcing some of their kids to sit on the floor in the aisle.
“The bus is my hassle of the day,” said Natalie Naqvi, a freshman at Vandegrift High School. She rides the bus from her neighborhood near Lake Travis and says during the first couple weeks at her new school, she’s had to sit on the floor multiple times.
“It’s kind of almost humiliating having to walk across the bus, everyone’s got a seat,” she said, “and…they’re waiting for you to find a seat.”
Her mom, Kathryn Day, contacted KXAN and sent a photo of the bus. She contacted the district about the issue and hopes the transportation department can figure out a way to relieve crowding.
“Because they’re the last stop” to get picked up in the morning, Day said, “it’s her and her friends always tend to be the same kids sitting on the ground.”
Leander ISD spokesman Corey Ryan said the district limits the number of high school students per bus to 55 so that everyone has a seat.
Drivers count the number of kids getting on each time and if there are too many, they adjust. That’s what happened on Friday afternoon leaving school.
“They had students get off the bus and they sent another bus in to transport the other students safely,” Ryan said.
The district has cameras all over the bus, he said, so when they hear concerns from parents, they can go back and review the video to see if the report matches the reality.
Sometimes a driver might miss a student sitting in the aisle, he said, but that should never happen. As the number of students who ride the bus changes seasonally and even week-to-week, especially in the early weeks of a new school year, parents, students, and the district can work together to ensure a safe ride.
“What that means is parents having conversations with their students and understanding like, hey, crowded buses might be a reality, but what that means is that you need to fill the seats.”
Naqvi says they do fill the seats, and then some. The driver makes sure everyone is seated before leaving, “and she says three to a seat, but there’s not room for three to a seat,” Naqvi said.
Drivers are supposed to limit high-schoolers to two in a seat, not three, Ryan said. Elementary students can fit three to a seat, so the district limits the number of younger kids on a bus to 77 instead of 55.
“We’re just hoping that it gets a little bit easier as the days progress,” said Liv Roseblade, whose daughter is also a Vandegrift freshman and rides the same bus. She and her husband, Dan, understand the difficulty of trying to sort out how many kids will ride the bus on a regular basis, especially in a growing neighborhood like theirs.
But they say their daughter is dealing with the same issue as Naqvi.
“She came home and said, ‘Daddy, I had to sit on the floor of the bus,'” Dan Roseblade said. “Wow, right there, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Could nobody be polite enough to give you a seat or scoot over?'”
The district is also short 29 bus drivers, which means making adjustments is more difficult. Everyone in the transportation department with a commercial driver’s license — employees who typically work in operations or routing — is already driving to make sure kids get to school safely, Ryan said.
Liv Roseblade understands that difficulty, too, but “it’s a little bit shocking that they don’t have a backup plan.”
Day is hopeful that something will change. “I think we pay enough property taxes to get our kids a safe way to school,” she said.
She called the district last week and is still waiting to hear whether it will adjust her daughter’s pickup. In the meantime, she’s considering taking her daughter to an earlier bus stop. While it wouldn’t solve the problem, it would at least ensure she has a seat.
Naqvi just wants her rush-hour ride to school to be a bit more bearable. “Putting everyone into one bus doesn’t work.”