‘This is not adequate.’ Ongoing school bus issues leave Fort Worth ISD parents frustrated

Isaac Windes/iwindes@star-telegram.com

Following a contentious school board meeting in which parents told board members that their children’s school buses had dropped them off in the wrong neighborhoods, officials in the Fort Worth Independent School District say they’re committed to fixing the problem.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the board approved a new cell phone service contract that will allow the district to use GPS tracking on its buses. But the father of two girls at Daggett Elementary School said he doesn’t see how that will fix the problem.

“That just tells us where the buses are at or not at,” said Jeff Williams. “...That doesn’t help if they get dropped off in a different neighborhood.”

FWISD bus driver left girls crying by the side of the road

The district transportation staff sent out apologies to parents earlier this month after KTVT-TV aired video of a driver forcing elementary students off a bus nearly a half a mile away from their homes. Williams told the Star-Telegram that his daughters, aged 8 and 9, were left crying on the side of the road until another parents spotted them and gave them a ride home.

In a statement, district officials said the incident was “unacceptable and does not reflect Fort Worth ISD’s commitment to its students and parents.”

Aside from technical enhancements to the school bus fleet, the district will work with transportation staff to improve training and continue to meet with parents to make sure their concerns are handled, according to the statement.

District officials declined to answer questions Wednesday about how the incident happened. The district told the TV station last week that there would be an investigation into the incident, and that the driver was a substitute who wouldn’t be driving that route again.

During Tuesday’s meeting, several parents told board members that it was an ongoing problem. One parent tried to play audio of children crying, apparently as a driver left some students at the wrong bus stop, but board President Tobi Jackson quickly had the speaker’s microphone cut off, saying the board’s rules don’t allow public speakers to share pre-recorded audio. The move resulted in an outcry from parents.

After a brief recess, Superintendent Angélica Ramsey invited several parents, including Williams, into another room to discuss the problem. Williams said Ramsey, who officially came on as superintendent only last week, told parents that it was the first she’d heard of the problem. Williams said Ramsey offered no excuses for the problem, but took down their information and promised to look into the situation. That’s all parents wanted, he said — someone to hear them out and fix the problem.

“We didn’t need a yelling match,” he said. “We didn’t need anything like that.”

Greenbriar Elementary mom says buses break down regularly

The incident wasn’t the only problem with bus service this year. Trenace Dorsey-Hollins, whose daughter goes to Greenbriar Elementary School, said her daughter’s bus regularly breaks down, causing her to be late for school. A few days into the school year, the bus broke down in front of Dorsey-Hollins’ driveway, so she had to drive across her yard and through her neighbor’s driveway to take her daughter to school. When she got home from dropping her daughter off, the bus was still sitting there. The bus sat there for two hours before a truck arrived to tow it away, she said.

Another time, her daughter, who uses a wheelchair, was on the bus’ wheelchair lift when an aide yelled to Dorsey-Hollins to get her off because the bus was smoking.

Dorsey-Hollins’ daughter is in special education, meaning the district is required to provide transportation for her under state law. Dorsey-Hollins said she’s been in contact with school board members and the district’s transportation office about getting the problem fixed. But she can’t tell if she’s making any headway, she said — her daughter’s bus broke down again just last week. She called the situation unacceptable.

“By law, they have to provide adequate transportation,” she said. “And this is not adequate.”