Residents brought concerns and comments to Jasper County superintendent Rachel Anderson at a community meeting on July 30 in Hardeeville.
The district resumed its Jasper Chronicles: Community Conversation series after a hiatus that was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anderson responded to parents’ concerns about transportation at the beginning of the meeting. She also discussed communication and how the district distributes information.
“Last year we had some challenges we faced after COVID, one of those being transportation,” Anderson said. “… One of the things we heard last year is that (people) do not know what’s happening, and so this week we sent out snippets on Facebook of exactly what is going on and how many students we are transporting to and from school , etc.”
Anderson said the district currently has eight bus drivers, two of whom are driving special education buses. She acknowledged that some stops were missed on the first day of school.
“We expect to have some hiccups on that first day,” she said. “We can now track our buses in our communities. We know exactly when our buses stop, what time they stop and at what stop. We have a route for every one of our stops.”
Based on feedback from the drivers, Anderson said the second day and the rest of the week went much better.
“We would like to have, at least, if we could, six or seven more drivers,” she said. “In Ridgeland we have two routes that are very long routes. We know there is one bus we would like to split and give part of that route to an additional driver.”
Anderson said the Levy route is very long and the district would like to add an additional driver.
“We have hired two new drivers, proposing we put them in Ridgeland to help with two of those areas over there,” she said.
Nicole Jefferson said the first week went well for her children, who ride the bus to school.
“The first day there was a little hiccup, but the bus route for my children in the Levy area has been on time every day and I thank you guys for that,” she said.
Anderson also said she was notified of a report of bus overcrowding and another report that two children were dropped off at the wrong stop, adding that officials have “made sure that protocols are definitely in place to make sure that that’s not a repeat.”
Ricardo Perry, on behalf of the Jasper County Parent Advocacy Council, said the group has heard that many children have had to wait at the bus stop for long periods of time.
“We are supposed to be able to estimate what the possible time of arrival should be,” Anderson said. “If for some reason that bus is not getting there at that time, we need to understand what is happening.
“We want (students) out there 15 minutes prior to the time they should be there for the route. The tracking system helps us anticipate the time of arrival. We don’t want a student out there any more than 30 minutes or an hour because it is not a safe place to be when parents aren’t there.”
Anderson said she had not heard of the delays, with the exception of the first day.
“Give us a call if this happens,” Anderson said. “Our supervisor will be out and monitoring routes.”
Shakima DuPont, one of two parents who organized a silent protest the day before the meeting, said the questions about transportation had been answered.
“I enjoyed this session; hopefully this will continue because that was one of my concerns regarding communication. Hopefully, this open line of communication, questions and answers, will continue.”
DuPont said she hoped the second week of school would go well.
“In any situation, the first week of school is hectic, so hopefully,” she said.