D300 to hold transportation review after parents share bus concerns
By Emily McFarlan Miller email@example.com @emmillerwrites September 25, 2013 2:58PM
School District 300 officials plan to have an independent, comprehensive review of the district’s transportation system after parents complained about bus safety and other issues. | Sun-Times Media file photo
Updated: October 28, 2013 7:11AM
ALGONQUIN — Last week, the week she retired as a bus driver for Community Unit School District 300, Diana Gleason of Hampshire had no less than three issues with her vehicle.
The power steering on her school bus was acting up, according to her daughter Andrea Krauss of Algonquin. The intercom system that allowed her to talk to the students on the bus was not working at all, Krauss said.
And the month before, Gleason had been driving the occupied bus that was hit by a student driving a car on Hampshire High School property. No one was injured in that accident, but the crossing gate that keeps children from walking in front of the bus was broken, and the safety officer for transportation provider Durham School Services told her not to drive the bus, Krauss said.
The next morning, however, the Durham dispatcher insisted the bus was fine to drive, she said.
“This is the experience of one driver out of almost 200 drivers,” Krauss admitted.
But, she said, “I have two children who ride D300 buses. The lack of maintenance, the lack of communication, the disregard for safety and not wanting any of this to go public really bothers me.”
Krauss was one of three parents who shared their concerns about bus safety and maintenance during public comments this week at the District 300 Board of Education meeting, prompting an independent, comprehensive review of the district’s transportation system.
The Carpentersville-area school district announced the review the next day on its website. Its transportation has been managed by Durham, a third-party vendor, since 2007, according to the website.
“We will welcome outside experts to investigate and assess all aspects of our transportation program, with a special focus on student safety and best practices,” it said.
Last Wednesday, Krauss said, four district officials visited the Hampshire bus barn where her mother had worked after learning she planned to speak at the school board meeting.
Afterward, Gleason was given a different bus to drive, Krauss said. But the brakes were going out, she said, and the next day, she realized the emergency spring brake wasn’t working either.
On Friday, her last day, she was given yet another bus to drive.
Gleason spoke at the meeting only, she said, “to support parents of children who ride our buses.”
“They have concerns, as well,” she said. “Hopefully, changes can be made that make them feel their children are safer on our buses. After all, Durham’s motto is, ‘Getting your children to school safe, happy and on time’ — in that order.”
Andrea Wegner of Algonquin, who has a child who attends Westfield Community School, shared stories she’s heard about high school students sitting three to a seat on overcrowded buses. Wegner also recounted “frantic posts ... all over Facebook” by a mom who couldn’t locate her child’s bus for two hours several weeks ago.
The Jacobs High School tennis team’s bus has broken down twice so far this school year, she said. So has the cross-country team’s.
“These are all concerns and questions we have discussed as parents in light of recent events,” Wegner said.
The school board does not respond directly to public comments, but board President Anne Miller and Superintendent Michael Bregy assured parents district officials would look into their concerns and report their findings back to the board.
The district announced that director of safety Gary Chester will work with independent investigators to take a close look at the district’s bus routing and scheduling, driver training and supports, vehicle maintenance and inspections and communication procedures. Investigators also will look at Durham’s compliance with all relevant laws and district policies.
“The safety of our students has always been our highest priority. We would never knowingly put our children at risk,” according to the post on the district website.