Saturday, May 07, 2011

Parents Furious When Buses Strand Field Trip Kids in Cincinnati

As though gas prices were not as issue, two Fayette County Public School buses were ordered to make two round trips to Cincinnati for one field trip Thursday: one round trip to take 120 Sandersville Elementary School second graders to the Cincinnati Zoo, and one more trip to pick them up.

This, because the transportation department, after approving the field trip and calculating costs to the school, directed the drivers to come back to Lexington and run their regular routes for the afternoon, and only then return to Cincinnati to get the kids - effectively doubling the expense of the trip.

A KSN&C reader reported, "I heard that the buses did not return to Cincinnati until around 7 pm and they didn't get home until around 9 pm. I heard that one of the students involved in this mess was Doug Barnett's kid and that he may have been pretty irate at transportation management about how all of this went down."

KSN&C was able to confirm that one of the second graders was indeed David Barnett, son of newly-elected Board of Education member Doug Barnett, and the elder Barnett was a chaperon on the trip. Like other students in his class, David paid his $10 for the field trip; half for the zoo and half for the bus. The students expected to leave Lexington around 8:30 am and head back home around 4:30 pm, but it was 9:30 am before they could get away.

It would be 11 am before the students reached the zoo. That's roughly when Barnett learned that the buses had been ordered back to Lexington, leaving a large number of seven-year olds and chaperons without transportation, should some unforeseen emergency have made that an issue.

By the time the buses made their afternoon runs back in Lexington and then returned to Cincinnati, it was 7:15 pm. Parents who were expecting their children to return home around 6 pm saw them next somewhere around 9 pm. A number of them were livid. If we assume that most of the children started heading to school somewhere around 7 am that morning, then the planned 9-hour day turned into a 14-hour day.

KSN&C asked Barnett to confirm whether he was irate, as our reader had suggested. He said, "I would have used the term furious." As a chaperon on the trip Barnett "saw the whole thing play out...I would have been deeply concerned even if David's class were not involved," Barnett said.

In the wake of the parent's response to the second grade trip a planned trip to the Newport Aquarium by Sandersville's first grade class was cancelled because of these same transportation issues.

Barnette "asked [Fayette County Schools Superintendent] Stu [Silberman]to investigate and resolve this matter because it should not be an event to get kids to and from field trips." He got district policy in return.

"I was told that this happened because we have a shortage of drivers and that the school has the option of using charters." Silberman referred Barnett to Policy 06.14 AP.1. One wonders if the school will now be billed for two round trips.

"There is also some notice (not in policy) that says substitutes can't be used for field trips and that two one-way trips could occur so that all routes can be completed," Barnett said. "I think this is process is too confusing and inefficient...for younger kids. I think this needs to be examined more because who knows how many times this has happened."

Barnett also wonders why a city the size of Lexington has a driver shortage.

On reflection, Barnett said "the teachers and staff at Sandersville did an absolutely wonderful job with the kids at all times on the trip. I told Stu I would have given those five teachers a gold star because of the transportation issue they had to deal with. I'm proud of each of them."

"I've calmed down a whole lot since Thursday," Barnette said.

This from FCPS Policy:

Use of Buses- Special Activity Trips

Categories of Service
Regular Service - Regular route service consists of transportation of students from home to school and back, including Kindergarten, School for the Deaf, School for the Blind, and Vocational School transportation.

Program Service - Program service includes Extended School Services (includes Summer School), Community Based Instruction, Child Development, Safety City, Dental and Clothing trips, Detention Programs, Family Resource Center, and Teen Mother Program.

Activity Trips - Activity trip service includes field trips, band and athletic trips, Arts in Basic Education (ABE), After School Activities and other non-recurring services.

Payment for Services
Regular and program services will be funded from within either the Transportation Division or from special program funds administered from the District level. Activity trip costs will be billed directly to schools.

Basis for Cost
Transportation service costs are based on a formula consisting of two (2) primary components:
1. Bus cost per mile, which is calculated by taking the entire transportation budget (less driver, driver assistant, and clerical personnel costs), then dividing the remainder by the total number of miles driven during the fiscal year.
2. Driver’s salary, which bill regular hours at an average of the existing regular hourly rates of the drivers on the trip list. Overtime hours are billed at 1½ times the regular average. Equity of billing is obtained by the establishment of an average cost for trips within a 50 mile radius of Lexington.

This process permits all schools to pay the same amount for trips to the same destination. Academic and special activity transportation services will be billed either to schools or to central program managers at a rate based on the above formula. The trip cost will be calculated annually and included in budget preparation guidance.

Driver Compensation
Drivers shall be paid for all actual driving hours plus time they are required to be on duty. However, such trips shall not provide less compensation than if the driver had been working normal confirmation times.

Availability of Buses
Buses will be made available as needed, except that activity and program services are restricted to times other than when regular services are being provided, and the number of buses assigned to special activity and ABE events, together, shall not exceed 30 buses per day.

Priority of Service
Within the previous priorities, at the beginning of each school year buses shall be reserved on scheduled ABE days for ABE events until October 1. Unreserved buses shall at that time become available for assignment for other trip purposes.

Use of Buses- Special Activity Trips
Bus Reservations
Trips sponsors wishing to request bus transportation for a school trip must complete the required Transportation Request Form, which can be accessed from the Transportation listing on District’s web site (Downloadable Forms).
Availability of buses on a particular date may be obtained and the transportation service reserved for a period of 24 hours by calling the Transportation Division prior to close of business on the following day in order to maintain the reservation.

Use of Food Services
Any time activity trips take students away from their school over the lunch period, teachers are responsible for notifying the cafeteria manager at the time the trip is confirmed. Whenever feasible, box lunches prepared by the cafeteria staff should be considered. This will address the problem of forgotten lunches and will make the trip less expensive for students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals. The Transportation Request Form contains a space for cafeteria requirements.

Seniority Cycle
The seniority trip list for Category II trips shall be cycled to the beginning of the list each week, or more often as necessary to ensure that trips are assigned to the most senior drivers.

Removal from Trip List
Drivers shall be removed from the trip list after turning down three (3) trips. Removal from the list will remain in effect for 90 days. Turn down of a trip within 24 hours of the trip date will result in immediate removal from the trip list, unless the driver was physically unable to take the trip.

Relief Drivers
A relief driver shall not be assigned trips that will interfere with his/her duties as a relief driver (i.e., overnight trips).



Anonymous said...

The transportation department did this rather than canceling the trip to the zoo. The first priority has to be to get the students home from school and that is what they did. If the transportation department had cancelled the trip Barnett would have been furious about that when his kid was crying. No win here but the bottom line was the kids did get to go the zoo.

Anonymous said...

8:38 AM -- So are you justifying inefficient transportation by FCPS rather than simply finding substitute bus drivers or having the school use a charter bus? As high as fuel prices are, this line of thinking is ridiculous.

I think Mr. Barnett has pointed out a pretty good question about efficient use of resources by the district. It has been pointed out by others on this blog that Transportation is run pretty poorly. Maybe this might be the last straw for the Board and they actually start looking into it.

I would also like to know what policy justifies two round trips like this?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Barnette lied. Someone needs to check with the teachers. Parents were notified the day before the trip so they knew exactly what time to expect the children home. How is it possible to print something like this without checking the facts?

Anonymous said...

The Stu supporters are now trying to scuttle Mr. Barnett. I think it is common knowledge that Stu would leave if Barnett became chairman of the Board. Stu was hoping his new chairman would be Rick Queen. But that was not meant to be. Mr. Barnett had every right to be angry. So did the other parents.

Richard Day said...

This is another resurrected comment from the recent Blogger maintanence:

This is from Anonymous:

The Stu supporters are now trying to scuttle Mr. Barnett. I think it is common knowledge that Stu would leave if Barnett became chairman of the Board. Stu was hoping his new chairman would be Rick Queen. But that was not meant to be. Mr. Barnett had every right to be angry. So did the other parents.

Anonymous said...

Are you going to check into this lie or just take Barnett at face value? Were the parents notified in advance of the return time or left stranded as your headline and Barnett suggest? Check it out and report the truth!

Anonymous said...

Interesting to read this article after the more recent article about bus drivers being humiliated. I think the question about why FCPS does not have more bus drivers has already been answered.

Anonymous said...

Richard, I think further investigation into the zoo trip is required, is it true that the two drivers drove for about 30 hours that day? Did they report back to work the next morning without what is required by "law' 14 hours of sleep? How many hours did they work the following day? What type of safety is our children really under? The public is under the impression that the adults are overseeing the safety of our children, but the facts are telling us something totally different. My opinion is that transportation is in serious trouble, all the signs are there, I'm shocked that this neglect is allowed, Richard please check into this matter.

Anonymous said...

Richard is it true that there is not enough drivers, or is the management not enough?