Update: City Gossip: Wheels on EBR Buses Will Go Round With No Issues Resolved

Unfortunately this update wont be a happy ending yet for East Baton Rouge Parish bus system. Thursday night’s highly-anticipated EBR School Board Special meeting ended without a clear resolution to solve the on-going issues with student transportation. Earlier this week Dr. Narcisse proposed a 3-tiered start time with high schools earlier at 7 a.m., middle schools at 8 a.m. and elementary schools at 9 a.m. After hearing the community’s input, the school board voted against the proposal for staggered school start times.

A substitute motion was passed with the following objectives:

  1. Require the Transportation Department to provide transportation updates to the school board twice a day.
  2. Reinstate transfer points for elementary-age children.
  3. Require Dr. Narcisse to go back to the drawing board to come up with a new plan to address the issue that won’t affect school times and schedules.

While this is a small step forward, many of the glaring operational challenges remain unresolved. These issues include the lack of buses for routes, absence of air-condition unites in vehicles, disrepair of equipment, and bus driver wages. Students are still impacted with long wait times, missing buses, and being stranded at transfer points.

“I am pleased that the substitute motion did pass and so kids will go back to their normal start times for school. But the problem is still not solved. We still have a problem with the number of buses, the number of bus drivers, and buses without any air on them. So basically what the board did was just kick the can down the road because they didn’t solve anything. I am hoping that within the next couple of weeks, they will come up with a solution that will help all of our boys and girls,” said Angela Rheams-Brown, President of the Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers.

I must add that I have been very impressed with School Board President Dadrius Lanus, for his professionalism, communication with the public, and boots to the ground efforts. He even took a day to ride the bus routes with drivers, to really get a clear idea of the issues the system is facing. I applaud him for that level of leadership during this crisis, while emotions are high.

Ultimately, the parents and students are let down while this crisis continues. I have seen a few solutions proposed by the community:

  1. All high schoolers utilize the local CATS bus system-to free up buses for middle and elementary school routes
  2. Parents pay a monthly transportation fee-this is the least politically favored-and parents already pay taxes-however this would give a huge financial boost to solve the issues right away
  3. Keep bus drivers employed by each school rather than the entire district

EBRs situation appears to be a part of a nation-wide trend of bus driver shortages.

Any thoughts on this situation?