Incident calls more attention to overcrowded buses
By Elsa Maxey
Contributions by LeaAnne Klentzman
The good news is that a collision involving an FBISD bus could have been filled with students, but it was not. It was empty, except for the bus driver, who was not seriously injured. The bad news – the driver of the SUV involved in the wreck died as a result of the accident. More bad news –some of the district’s school buses are so overcrowded that students end up sitting on the steps inside the bus and also on the aisles, reports a parent. And it coincidentally was on the same day of the wreck, about an hour before it happened. The obvious is that an overcrowded school bus like Kim Lyons describes could have even more serious consequences from a wreck than was the case last Wednesday.
Highway 6, southbound at Sienna Ranch Road and northbound at Sienna Parkway was closed due to a traffic accident investigation, advised Missouri City. FBISD Director of Communications Nancy Porter released a statement that afternoon about the 2:30 p.m. incident and Missouri City Police Department told the “Star” that the SUV traveling south bound on SH 6 at Sienna Ranch collided with the rear of a school bus. The driver of the SUV was flown by Life Flight to Memorial Hermann, and as a result of the accident, the driver of SUV passed away at the hospital. He is identified as 34-year old Raylon Gardner of Angleton.
The police department confirmed that there were no students on the bus at the time of the accident, but two small children, aged 2 and 3, were in the SUV. Both the children and the bus driver were taken to the hospital by ground ambulance as a precaution. The accident remains under investigation.
Lyons’ concerns of the overcrowded buses is being reported at the heels of last week’s fatality, and it merits serious attention. She witnessed three students to a seat on bus #240 which goes to Hightower High School and also on others, as well as students getting off the bus because of overcrowding and opting to walk instead…home, and not to school, she said.
FBISD Director of Transportation David Davis reports that the school district has 455 buses. Bus #240 had a large number of students riding the bus to one particular bus stop, and “the Transportation Department is currently working with the bus driver and conducting an assessment to see how the service can be improved,” he said. “They’re looking into it,” is what Lyons said she was told by a bus driver when she expressed her concerns. But she’s not satisfied with the answer.
Davis said that bus drivers are to notify Transportation dispatch of any over capacity vehicles noting that for elementary buses the capacity is three students to a seat, middle school is two-three to a seat, and high school is two to a seat. Lyons, however, has seen three to a seat bound for high school and she provides a first hand, eye witness account of a high school bus so overcrowded that a student was on an emergency board on the back of the bus. One can only imagine this school bus and last week’s rear end collision.
In accordance with the school district’s operating procedures, drivers are to provide actual bus stop counts daily to assist supervisors in moving bus stops to other bus routes that are using under capacity vehicles, said Davis. He also said that “Dispatch will use other buses to accompany a bus that may have overcrowding until solutions are finalized.”
When bus stops are changed, the school district sends letters to parents. Davis said that “parent letters are provided for the bus driver for distribution to students,” and “the school campus is also notified of the changes and the Transportation system is updated.”
To resolve concerns, FBISD asks that parents work directly with the Transportation Department as this is the best way to address them. Davis said that each request is resolved as quickly as possible with temporary solutions provided as soon as an issue is communicated.
In the meantime, Lyons said she knows there have been budgetary cutbacks, but when they affect the safety of one’s children while they are under the custody of the school district, it’s not something that she says can be overlooked by those administering the operations of the school district.