Hillsborough County parents fed up with school bus problems

Posted at 6:39 PM, Sep 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-26 06:43:14-04

WESTCHASE, Fla. — Over the past few weeks, many parents have asked ABC Action News to press the Hillsborough County School District about late buses.

Isabel Phifer has become used to text messages from her son about his bus being late in Westchase to pick him up and take him to Alonso High School. 

"This was on Monday at 9:21, the bus didn’t come at all,” she said, as she points to the most recent message. "Every child is not late to Alonso, but our children are late almost all the time,” she said.

A picture snapped Monday by a neighbor shows several kids waiting on a bus they say never showed up.

Around 10 a.m., Phifer drove those kids to school, two of them are her children. 

Jim Beekman, the transportation director for the district responded to Phifer's e-mail about the missed bus: 

"I looked up the GPS report for your student's bus for yesterday. The report has come through and it shows that the bus stop was made at Gretna Green Drive at 7:26:18 yesterday morning. What does not show is the second stop at Gretna Green when it went past the stop,” he said.

"Who's accountable for making sure every kid is picked up?” she asked.

He plans on taking a look at the bus security video to see how many kids rode the bus Monday. Phifer says on Friday they got word the bus would arrive a few minutes earlier at 7:31 a.m.

In newly obtained e-mails between district officials, Alonso’s principal typed a heated letter on September 7, 2018, and claimed some buses were held at nearby elementary schools for 15-20 minutes instead of dropping off and leaving right at 7:10 a.m. The district says those schools were told to stop doing that.

"The excuses that are being given including the fact of traffic at this point it’s just not good enough,” said Phifer.

The school district says it’s doing everything it can to fix the problem, but traffic is certainly a big contributing factor.

In an email sent September 12, 2018, a planning and routing official did a ride-along. They noted bus 5350 passed several Alonso stops, with just 15 students on board. The district says it’s using this type of information to actively make adjustments to the routes. They hope parents understand they do care and aren’t ignoring their concerns.

Tuesday, the district says out of 25 buses, only three were late — one arrived five minutes after the bell rang. They say three drivers called out and they are looking to hire at least one bus driver to fill a route.