A video posted on social media and showing an overcrowded Chattahoochee County school bus being driven while students are standing in the aisle has prompted questions. Here are some answers.
In an emailed interview Friday with the Ledger-Enquirer, ChattCo superintendent David McCurry said the depicted bus “unexpectedly had more students waiting at bus stops Wednesday morning than there had been the two previous mornings.”
ChattCo started its 2018-19 school year Monday.
“We were made aware of the overcrowding upon the bus arriving to the school,” McCurry said. “The count was over 70 students. The bus on the route in question is a Class D bus (the flat-nose type), which is rated for 78-90 passengers. However, the bus was still crowded. We made adjustments to all the bus routes in this area. These buses currently carry 60 and 65 student each.”
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During the first three days of school, McCurry said, ChattCo had a “significant increase in enrollment. . . . Though we are very pleased that so many new students want to attend ChattCo this year, it is causing some transportation issues. To compound matters, we are struggling to find new drivers.”
The school system’s enrollment, as of Thursday, was 863 students. This time last year, it was “right at 800,” McCurry said. “. . . We have been transporting just under 500 students this week.” He didn’t have available the number of ChattCo bus riders last year.
ChattCo has eight school buses — all Class D with capacity for 78-90 passengers. They first run the elementary school’s routes and then the middle/high school routes, McCurry said.
“Buses carrying older students will have less room,” he said. “The bus in the video was within legal passenger capacity, but seating space was limited. After meeting with all drivers this morning, we’ve found that there are a couple other buses not as crowded where students are standing. We reiterated to drivers that this is not permissible. Buses should not leave the school or bus stops until every student is seated.”
McCurry added, “It’s my understanding a driver could receive a traffic citation for this. More importantly, we acknowledge that it’s a safety issue that must be addressed.”
Asked what the school system is doing to address the problem, McCurry said, “We take daily student counts of each bus as it arrives to school each morning. Adjustments are made to bus stops as needed. We’ve also have had two staff meetings with drivers since the incident in question to discuss bus safety. We are actively seeking another full-time driver to add another route to this area. This will help lower the number of students per bus.”
McCurry requested anyone who has or seeks a commercial driver’s license with a passenger and school bus endorsement to call the school system’s office at 706-989-3774. Applications are available online at www.chattco.org.