Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco school bus system on smoother course

Fox Hollow Elementary teacher Melissa Simpkins verifies which students belong on this bus Tuesday during dismissal. The Pasco School District has a new call center so parents can get information on bus comings and goings.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Fox Hollow Elementary teacher Melissa Simpkins verifies which students belong on this bus Tuesday during dismissal. The Pasco School District has a new call center so parents can get information on bus comings and goings.

LAND O'LAKES — Elizabeth Ford had a problem.

Her children got on the bus Monday morning heading to Centennial Elementary School, but when it came time to return home, their driver left them at the wrong place.

In past years, when Ford has called the Pasco School District to complain about busing issues, she waited hours for a call back.

"Now, I got immediate feedback," she said. "I didn't even need to wait for a call back."

The difference was Pasco's new transportation call center, where close to three dozen staffers and volunteers are armed with updated, computerized information on bus comings and goings. When they received calls from anxious parents whose youngsters were late at the end of the first day of school, they could provide answers rather than transfers to the already busy lines of route specialists and principals.

"Take a deep breath, Mom," information services secretary Theresa Lawlis-Papola told one caller whose elementary school bus was running late. "We've got you. … I understand. I'd be freaking out, too."

Lawlis-Papola looked up the bus route on her laptop, confirming it arrived at Veterans Elementary 30 minutes late and left about the same. The woman's daughter had been logged into the new attendance grid.

"It's all good. We've got her. They just left," she said, noting that the parent calmed quickly after getting the information.

Improved communication was key to superintendent Kurt Browning as he ordered a revamp of the district's busing systems, particularly in the beginning days of classes when things tend to be rocky.

Most of the big concerns can be anticipated, Browning said, so the district should be ready rather than just wait and react. His staff created new ways to track buses, froze routes through the second week of school to limit the chaos of change, and trained school employees on how to best organize bus dismissal.

They also set up the call center to field complaints that in the past sometimes wouldn't arrive until days later, usually with pent-up anger.

"I wanted a sense of urgency when we were dealing with transportation issues, making sure parents were getting their questions answered," Browning said as he watched workers field the calls.

Christa Vail, a special education supervisor, said she heard relief in parents' voices as she gave them the information they wanted.

"People are able to call and get their answers instead of sitting at home and panicking," Vail said. "It's been great."

Of course, the changes curtailed the extent of problems. But they did not eliminate all of them.

A handful of the district's 387 routes ran an hour or more behind schedule. Data entry errors led to questions about whether children actually had boarded the correct buses.

Assistant superintendent Ray Gadd said the district would continue to refine its efforts.

"We need to work on the root causes and make sure our routes are right," Gadd said.

It certainly satisfied many of the 1,663 callers on the first day. Numbers shrank on the second day.

"For me, it's very helpful," Ford said.

Pasco school bus system on smoother course 08/19/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 19, 2014 9:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

    Local Government

    By Mark Puente

    Times Staff Writer

    Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.

    Eleanor Morrison poses at her home in Treasure Island, 5/26/17. Morrison filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and later learned that its former Executive Director, Rodney Fischer, dismissed the case in a private meeting with the contractor.
  2. Report: Kusher wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin

    World

    Jared Kushner and Russia's ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Donald Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, U.S. …

    The name of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's White House senior adviser, has come up as part of the Russia investigation. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays pitchers rave about Twins pitching coach, ex-mentor Neil Allen

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — There have been a lot of coaches who have had a hand in helping Chris Archer get to the big leagues and to the front of the Rays rotation, and as he took the mound Friday night at Target Field, he had reason to nod appreciatively toward the home dugout.

    Minnesota Twins pitching coach Neil Allen jogs back to the dugout after paying starting pitcher Tyler Duffey a visit on the mound in the first inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
  4. Swan sculpture deputies say was stolen by naked man found near Lakeland pond

    Crime

    A $25,000 swan sculpture that Polk County sheriff's deputies say was stolen by a naked man last weekend was found near a pond in Lakeland on Thursday.

    A swan sculpture that was stolen in Lakeland on May 19 was recovered by the Polk Sheriff’s Office on Friday.
  5. Mayor Rick Kriseman says election is about moving forward

    Blogs

    Mayor Rick Kriseman christened his campaign office  Friday evening by telling his supporters that the mayoral election was about moving forward, not backward..

    Mayor Rick Kriseman says mayoral election is about inclusiveness Friday at campaign office rally