JOPLIN, MO.--- Parents raise questions about overcrowding issues on Joplin school buses. One parent contacted us, saying her child was left at the school yesterday afternoon because there was not enough room on the bus. That forced her to leave work early to pick her child up from the 9-10 high school campus. When she contacted the transportation department, they said because of the unexpected amount of kids riding the bus, they'd have to send another ride in about an hour. We took action today to find out what the transportation department had to say about the issue.
"Yesterday was not a typical day. We have had this situation arise where we've had students picked up at the schools and have actually had more students that want to get on the bus than what the bus will legally hold," says David Pettit, Assistant Director of Transportation.
The Joplin School Bus System is essentially open enrollment, meaning students don't sign up to ride. So, it's up to the transportation department to get an estimate of how many buses they'll need.
"We just anticipate that we're going to setup to be prepared to take every student, and then if we become too crowded on a bus, then we'll take care of that issue and adjust as needed," says Pettit.
Over the past two days, transportation officials had to come up with a backup plan.
"When those situations come about, we find a way. We have our bus drivers stay in place and call us on the radio and notify us that we need to send another bus or find another means to make sure that we get our students home, because we never deny transportation," says Pettit.
In yesterday's situation, the bus driver says five students voluntarily left the bus to find another ride when they saw it was overcrowded. If they hadn't volunteered, school officials would have found a way to get the kids home. Today, the transportation department had a ride for everyone in a matter of minutes.
"We had another bus there in about 8 minutes. We had the other bus stay in place. The two drivers coordinated together to make sure we got those students taken home," says Pettit.
Although their numbers are changing everyday, transportation officials are working hard to make sure all students get home safely.
"We never deny transportation, we want to take care of that. But with the fluctuating, especially with high school students, the fluctuation and after school activities, sometimes we can't guess exactly how many students we will have on a bus in the afternoon. If it becomes where we can't safely transport them, we will find other means to make sure we do get them home," says Pettit.
School officials estimate about 3,200 students ride the bus everyday. The schools were using larger, leased buses that held about 75 kids each. Now, they're back to buses that only hold about 65 passengers. It's going to be an adjustment for everyone as they transition back to the smaller buses.
Copyright 2013 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.