The first day of school in Leon County was a transportation nightmare for district buses.
A new program for planning school bus routes turned out to be a ‘colossal failure’ according to Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna.
He called a news conference late Monday, flanked by Leon County school board members, as kids were still on buses long after school had ended.
“I appreciate our board members standing behind me, but I am in charge of the day to day operations of the school system, and today I have failed, and I offer my apology to this community. I promise you I will not…” Hanna paused to compose himself after breaking into tears. “I promise you I will not rest until we get this resolved.”
Speaking on Facebook Live, Hanna blamed the snafu on a new bus routing program that suffered a ‘systems crash’ late last week. Planners thought the system would be fine by Monday morning. Instead, many students were late for schools, and some were never picked up.
“I am heartbroken, but I can assure you that we will work around the clock with all hands on deck and all of our staff and employees until we get this problem resolved,” Hanna said. “It’s going to take over the course of the next several days and weeks to get this corrected. In the meantime, I want to assure our parents that absences will be excused. We will also excuse tardies.”
Hanna says the district entered into an agreement a year ago with EDULOG, a nationwide company that focuses on safety and efficiency in school bus routes. He says a study suggested the change would be the best option for tracking students as they get on and off the bus. Once the system went down, he said it was too late to revert back to last year’s routes.
“None of us saw this coming. We didn’t. The easiest thing probably to do was to keep doing what we were doing (last year). But for the safety of our children – we didn’t know who was getting on our buses and who was getting off our buses,” Hanna said. “Money aside, it was so we could better track our kids to know that Rocky Hanna got on bus 101 at 6:55 in the morning and then Rocky Hanna again got off that same bus at 3:55 in the afternoon.”
As part of the changes, the district cut courtesy stops this year that fall within two miles of a school, so the district's drivers were already stuggling with the new routes.
Hanna says he is confident families will see improvements by next week. Until then, he’s urging families to find alternate transportation.