CMS express bus routes leaving some magnet school families scrambling
Parents have expressed concerns not only with commute time, but also with safety.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Some Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools families say they are scrambling to get their kids to school after the district introduced the express bus route plan.
Students in the magnet program are no longer being picked up at traditional neighborhood bus stops. Instead, magnet schools have one assigned location for pickup. They are supposed to cut down on time spent getting to school, but some families say those new stops are too far from home.
One family says it not only extends their son’s commute, but could also put him in danger.
“I thought it was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard,” Sara Munday said. “It’s not safe. It’s not safe at any time of day. Certainly not at 5:20 in the morning.”
Munday’s son is a senior at Northwest School of the Arts. His assigned pickup location is Croft Community School. That’s a nearly one-hour walk from their home.
“It’s just not a reasonable expectation for anybody,” Munday said.
The commute time is not the only thing Munday finds unreasonable. It’s also his route. Munday’s teenage son would have to walk several busy roads, most without sidewalks or a shoulder, all well before the sun comes up.
“It’s not safe to walk for anyone,” she said. “The people who put this in place didn’t really take into consideration the safety of the riders that they’re talking about.”
WBTV took these concerns to the executive director of transportation at CMS, Adam Johnson.
“We do not want kids to walk an hour in the dark anywhere, whether it’s an express stop or not an express stop,” he said. “We would encourage those families if they haven’t reached out to us to let us see what we can do for them.”
Munday says she reached out to the district, but to no avail.
In order to stay at the magnet school, the family has come up with their own plan. Now mom and son are juggling schedules in order to share a car, an option many students don’t have.
“Now you’re saying the magnet program is great if you have resources, but if you don’t have resources really it’s not for you,” Munday said. “That’s what’s happening. Even though that’s not what they’re actually saying, that’s what’s happening.”
Some families say these challenges could mean lower-income kids will miss out on opportunities afforded by magnet schools.
“If there is a family where they have absolutely no other choice, yeah, we do want them to reach out to us to see if there is anything we can do to possibly help them,” Johnson said.
Johnson says he wants families to understand the district was forced to implement the express bus route plan because of the national bus driver shortage. He says the alternative would be much more dire.
“If we did nothing, if we did not have any express stops, we would be looking at well over 200 vacancies,” he said. “We would be telling families, much like other districts in the state and across the country, we wouldn’t be able to provide a bus for you at all.”
At the end of the month, the district will count how many magnet students are actually riding express buses.
Johnsons says express bus stop families can visit the website to find the transportation email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and phone number (980-343-6715). He says the email is checked daily.
WBTV will continue following this story.
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