The Hernando school district rolled out its newly streamlined bus routes with just one problem: not enough room on some of the buses.
Roughly 10 buses had too many students trying to board during the first week of school, said district transportation director Douglas Compton. There was a total of about 70 more students than seats, he said.
There were several reasons why the buses didn't have enough space, Compton said, and some of the issues have been dealt with already.
At the end of July, the district decided to eliminate 24 routes and add 10 students to each remaining route, saving $880,000.
The transportation department in some cases underestimated how many students would end up on each bus, and the buses hit capacity. That problem has largely been resolved by using bigger buses on those routes, Compton said.
Another problem is that some ineligible students who live just inside the 2-mile no-transportation zone around each school are using stops just beyond the zones, Compton said. The school district stopped offering bus service inside the 2-mile radius last year to save money.
A third problem is that a large number of students are getting on the bus at the stop close to the Learning Tree day care center in Brooksville when they shouldn't be, Compton said.
Until the remaining issues can be resolved, a nearby bus — known as a zone bus — will come by and pick up the extra students and take them to school. Students, even if they aren't eligible to ride the bus or are at the wrong stop, will not be left behind. The buses also won't go over their specific capacities, Compton said.
"We never put more students on the bus than it's designed to (handle)," he said.
There have been reports of at least one route where students were sitting in the aisle of a bus. But Compton said he hasn't found any evidence of that being true.
Of the roughly 10 routes that had overloads, six remain, he said. The most overloaded bus has about 10 extra students on board.
Compton said each bus comes with a student roster, but it doesn't necessarily mean a student can't ride the bus if his or her name isn't on the list.
"At least at the beginning of the year, we do not like to leave anybody standing at a stop," he said. "(Drivers) will go ahead and take all kids."
Overall, Compton said, the beginning of the school year has gone pretty smoothly.
"It's been a very calm and quiet opening," he said, "in comparison to a lot of them."
Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432.