"Tunnel vision" may have led to Pinellas bus confusion
The chaos at some Pinellas bus stops a few weeks ago may have been caused in part by district employees who did not know they were collectively clumping scores of students at the same stops, associate superintendent Michael Bessette told the school board this week.
Bessette is still in the process of reviewing what went wrong. But he told board members that bus routers with "tunnel vision" may have been among the problems, along with a huge uptick in the number of students using arterial busing - from 3,500 last year to 12,000 this year among high school students alone. He said the routing system apparently does not include a trip wire that lets everybody know when too many kids are being assigned to the same stop.
"Do we not have something in the system that flags this? That's something that I don't totally have the answers to because we're not finished" with the review, he told The Gradebook. But "if we don't have something like that in the system, we need to make sure we do."
Bessette pointed to the stop at 49th Street and 70th Street, which serves 10 high schools, as an example. Eight of those schools have one to three students at the stop. One has six. One, Pinellas Park High, has 27. "Any individual router is looking at that going, 'Three kids. That's perfect,' " he said. "They don't necessarily see its impact on the big picture."
Board member Janet Clark asked when transportation officials realized they were dealing with a flood of new students on arterial routes - and, if they had enough notice, why they didn't react accordingly. Bessette said he was still trying to get answers to those questions.
"Somebody messed up," Clark said in an interview. "I'm tired of hearing about accountability for teachers and principals" but not for district administrators.
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