CHARLOTTE, NC (Ann Doss Helms/The Charlotte Observer) - Maybe your child's principal calls to say he caused trouble on the school bus. Or you hear the bus driver has been using a cellphone when her eyes should be on the road.
Or maybe it's half an hour after the bus should have dropped off your child and you're starting to freak out.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has new tech tools to deal with all of these situations, as it prepares to put a record-breaking 1,078 buses on the road.
For the first time, all buses will have cameras on board, which can clarify reports of misbehavior by students or drivers, said transportation director Janet Thomas. For instance, drivers aren't allowed to use their phones while driving. If someone says a driver did so, it will be easy to verify or refute.
Starting in October, CMS plans to have an app parents can use to track the location of their child's bus, something parents have been asking for.
- 1,078 CMS buses this year
- 5 a.m. Earliest scheduled pickup
- 6 p.m. Latest scheduled drop-off
Buses start their practice runs Monday, a week before the Aug. 28 opening day for most students. That's designed to make sure new drivers – and experienced ones with new routes – are prepared for traffic patterns, road construction and anything else that might pop up along the way.
Drivers should be prepared for some traffic slow-downs during the practice week and even more once the kids are there, with stops scheduled as early as 5 a.m. and as late as 6 p.m.
"Your commuting life is going to change on Aug. 28," CMS Police Chief Randy Hagler warned.
Enrollment growth and an expanded menu of options that involve long bus rides mean CMS has 25 more buses running this year. As of Wednesday afternoon, the district still had 35 driver jobs to fill. But Thomas said substitutes and "lead drivers," or qualified drivers who also do office work, can fill in while CMS keeps recruiting.
The district also has 14 vacancies on its 99-person staff for doing bus maintenance and repair, she said.
For information about CMS jobs, click "careers" at www.cms.k12.nc.us.