Ongoing bus route problems frustrate Gary schools chief

2012-09-05T17:45:00Z 2012-09-05T22:47:05Z Ongoing bus route problems frustrate Gary schools chiefCarmen McCollum carmen.mccollum@nwi.com, (219) 662-5337 nwitimes.com

GARY | Gary schools Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt is fed up with problems with its bus transportation company.

After more than three weeks of meeting with Illinois Central Bus Co. to resolve the issues, Pruitt said Wednesday she is looking at other options, including legal remedies.

Illinois Central spokesman Jamal Washington declined to comment Wednesday afternoon.

Since the start of the school year, the district has been flooded with hundreds of complaints from angry parents upset over changing routes, buses that pass up students, late bus arrivals and no-shows, Pruitt said. She said students have been dropped off at home as late as 6 p.m.

Pruitt said she is at "zero tolerance" at this point.

"It is unacceptable," Pruitt said. "We need to make certain that students get to and from school. They keep telling us that it is going to be resolved; then the next day, there are continuing problems."

A Gary school employee initially was making out the routes, but Illinois Central has now agreed to determine routes, Pruitt said. Part of the issue is that when the bus routes are changed, that information is not communicated to school officials or parents. Principals also are reporting that drivers are refusing to transport children they say are not on their routes.

"I need the children to be picked up and returned to their designated spots," Pruitt said.

The bus transportation budget is supported 100 percent through property tax collections. With tax collections down, the budget dropped by half to $5 million this year, school officials said. The number of school buses has been reduced to 60 from 100, and the school district is enforcing walk zones for some students.

Pruitt said she has met with the president of Illinois Central in hopes of resolving the issues. The company currently has a one-year contract with the district.

Once the routes are correct, the district also needs to check the routes against the list of convicted child sex offenders to make sure the routes are as safe as possible, Pruitt said. She is working with the teacher's union and mayor's office, and has appealed to the Indiana Department of Education to help resolve the issues.

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