Churchill County School District is doing damage control after Monday afternoon’s busing nightmare for parents and their children.
Superintendent Dr. Sandra Sheldon said for the first day of school (Monday), a new schedule had been implemented for the afternoon bus routes. The schedule announced that students be picked up from their elementary schools and taken to a transfer point before boarding a route bus for their trip home.
Sheldon released a statement on Tuesday and also talked with the LVN regarding the transfer situation at E. C. Best Elementary School.
“This concept of a central transfer point failed miserably due to a multitude of factors both in and outside of the district’s control,” she said. “It’s hard to say what had the most negative impact causing things to fail. There was a lot of miscommunication and the buses from Lahontan were delayed severely because they were blocked in by cars that were parked in the wrong area.”
Angry parents took to social media for two days to voice their concerns about their experiences. Some parents noted their children had been vomiting due to being exposed to the heat for a long period of time, and they arrived home hours after they were supposed to be home. Some parents said their children were missing or were kicked off the bus.
Due to the delay, Sheldon said students and staff were left standing outside in the sun for more than an hour waiting for transfer buses to arrive.
“I have spoken with many parents regarding the situation yesterday (Monday),” she said. “To those parents, and to those I was unable to speak to, I offer my deepest apology for the delay in the transfers and the situation that resulted from buses being delayed.
“Teachers were anticipating buses would arrive at a certain time and followed the orders they were given. For now on, students waiting for buses will be held in bus lines in the gym or cafeteria at their school until the buses arrive,” she said.
Fallon Police Chief Kevin Gehman said 12-15 children were reported missing during yesterday’s situation. After receiving a call about a missing student, officers reported to the bus shed to talk to employees and encountered roughly 30 family members searching for missing students.
“We didn’t realize the scope of the situation until we arrived at the bus shed and saw how many more students were unaccounted for,” he said. “Once we received names of the missing students, we had bus drivers do a head count of the students. Some were found by doing that but for a few others … they took a little bit longer to find. We found the rest of the students nowhere close to where they were supposed to be dropped off.”
Sheldon said a meeting was held with all principals and Transportation Director Steve Russell to redesign the student pick-up process at the end of the school day. She said students will no longer be taken to a transfer location (E.C. Best). They will be picked up at their school by their afternoon route bus and delivered to their designated drop off.
“Parents with multiple students in elementary school can still request to have their children taken to E.C. Best as a pick-up location only,” she said. “Once the students get to E.C. Best, they will wait there until their parents pick them up.”
Parent Cassandra Esposito said Monday was a huge mess that led to her reporting her daughter missing.
“I knew something was wrong when the bus that should have had my daughter on it drove past me and never stopped,” she said. “I tried to contact the bus shed, district office and her school but I was never able to get a hold of anyone and I ended up calling the sheriff’s office. From the time her school let out to when she finally made it home it had been almost three hours.”
Esposito praised the sheriff’s office for their fast response to the situations and said she’s disappointed with the districts “generic” phone calls to alert parents..
“I hope they work on this issues and find a solution fast,” she said. “What happened isn’t acceptable.”
Sheldon also stressed the importance of parents picking up their children after school to stay clear of the bus zone.
“It is essential that the buses have a clear path in exiting the parking lots to maintain their scheduled route,” she said. “We are confident that the problems experienced yesterday (Monday) will not be repeated.”