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Old 08-29-2007, 06:11 PM   #1
Jesse
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Some Caddo parents troubled by school bus woes

Instead of the school bus dropping off Shakeidra Autry's 5-year-old at home after school Tuesday, Autry had to pick him up across town at Southern University-Shreveport.

Last week, the Judson Elementary School student wound up at Eden Gardens Fundamental Magnet Elementary School instead of Judson. Autry wasn't notified her son didn't make it to school on time until she arrived to bring snacks.

Another time, the 5-year-old didn't board the school bus in the afternoon. Instead, he sat in Judson's office. Autry wasn't notified of that either, until she called the school and police in search of her son.

This has been happening since school started Aug. 14, and it's a problem Autry says school officials chalk up to back-to-school kinks.

"They keep acting like this is no big deal, like it's my problem," Autry said.

Rodney Watson, interim superintendent of Caddo schools, said the beginning of the year is when the school district's offices are flooded with phone calls from parents with questions about transportation, class schedules, school lunches and other issues.

He said Autry's problem is not common.

"At the beginning of school, we get hundreds of phone calls and we try to respond to all of those calls, but when you are dealing with over 43,000 students and 24,000 of them who ride the bus, then there are going to be anomalies," he said.

The kindergartner's trip isn't a straight shot since he rides two different buses to get to his destination, both in the morning and in the afternoon. To help, Autry fashioned an ID tag with his name, bus numbers and telephone numbers.

But that hasn't worked.

The day her son ended up at Eden Gardens instead of Judson, Autry took snacks to the school and found out her son was taken to Eden Gardens because he didn't switch buses to get to Judson. The mother said a school office worker gave her the news and said the school sent someone to retrieve the child.

"Had I not have taken those snacks to school, I would have never known he didn't get to school on time," she said. "And they sent some man to pick my child up, and I didn't even know about it."

Caddo schools Transportation Director Otis Jones said the school system started labeling children in grades K-2 to help bus drivers and students figure out which bus to take during the start of school.

"About 99 percent of the time, we require that students be labeled, and it's been a tremendous help," Jones said. "The bus stop, contact information and bus numbers are on the labels so the bus drivers can become acclimated to what's going on."

Jones said he had not received reports about Autry's case but said that until the initial start-of-school kinks are worked out, the school district would ensure the child's safety would not be threatened.

Watson, who hadn't heard of Autry's situation, said when younger students have difficulty riding buses, school officials are alerted to watch the child to ensure he or she reaches their destination. He said elementary-age children are tagged so bus drivers will know which students belong on their bus.

"When problems arise, I want parents to work with us so we can get some of these problems straightened out," he said. "We carefully tag the elementary children and we try to carefully track the kids, but generally after a week or two all the kinks are worked out."
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