I was perplexed beyond measure viewing the news report of 7 June, which states that this fall, the Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) are considering a partnership with public transportation, after nearly a year of searching for solutions to the ongoing bus driver shortage. Charmane White, the Director of Transportation for ACPS Transportation commented on camera, “We will look at how best to serve our students, and that requires us thinking outside of the box.”
Outside of the box? White is well beyond the confines of the box, she’s out the door and in the garbage can by the curb along with the wrapping that the box came in! She later added that, “student safety is the division’s main priority.” Really? That’s a bold statement at a time when so many skeletons are falling out of the public education closet as of late. I think someone should suggest to White, that she slow down and take a deep breath and smell what she is shoveling.
Less than a month ago, I meticulously examined why local schools are unable to attract and retain school bus drivers. The answer is so obvious that a blind man can see it with a stick. However, the crooked-pated, dizzy-eyed clods within the ACPS administration instead look towards a solution that has more holes in it than the Russian cruiser Moskva. In what reality must one exist to believe that the safety of students is a factor anywhere within this proposed solution? There was one mother with the courage and fortitude to be interviewed for the piece. Amy Macfarlan, an Albemarle County parent, says, if the school division moves forward with this plan, she’s concerned her kids could be riding with strangers. God bless you Amy, no truer words have been spoken. You have no idea just how strange this new, encased student environment will be.
On any given day, students could potentially be riding with felons, alcoholics, pedophiles (the worst kept secret around here, pre-ChiCom-Virus, was how pedophiles would congregate at the main bust station on Water Street), addicts, and the emotionally disturbed. Wish to challenge this? Simply drop in behind a bus and watch what gets off and on, and more importantly—WHERE. The ABC Store, the courthouse/police station, etc., all are popular destinations for this crowd.
I cannot believe that any truly concerned representative of ACPS can honestly believe that this scenario is remotely sane or safe twice-a-day for one hundred and seventy-seven days. Nor can I believe that any parent could, would, or should be forced into a situation whereby they must place their children at such risk. It is beyond unconscionable.
White also stated that this potential arrangement offers “a possible fix that could be extremely beneficial it answers the need to not only getting our children to school safely, but on time. That has been, I know a thorn, in parents’ sides this year.”
Very well, let’s examine that statement. The existing bus schedules are already problematic at best. Numerous ridership studies as well as outside consultants (a favorite of both city and county), have indicated that the schedules are not conducive to daily ridership as it takes too long to get across town and requires too many bus changes to do so. Timing was also cited as an issue, particularly when the inevitable motor vehicle crash obstructs a major artery. What happens when a sick, drunk and hungover, or disabled rider defecates or urinates themselves requiring the driver, for public safety health concerns, to cease his route, disembark his passengers, and notify dispatch to send a replacement bus so that the present bus can be sanitized? This is not as rare an occurrence as one might believe.
Can anyone possibly believe that “On-Time” schedules will be maintained? What about passenger behavior? You have one driver whose hands are tied to the point that he can do very little with unruly passengers other than to pull over. He then must contact dispatch, who must decide whether to call the police or send a supervisor from the Avon Street headquarters. Either way, you’re looking at fifteen minutes at best. Fifteen minutes where students of all ages can watch the disgusting spectacle play out before them. Hearing language and viewing imagery that cannot be unheard or unseen. That certainly ensures considerable fodder for the dinner table when a parent inquires about his child’s day at school!
Another scenario that factors into this insane equation is the question of who commands authority over a student behavioral issue. Which policy is in play? The one the driver follows for adult commuter riders or the one established by ACPS? Which entity does a concerned parent contact regarding issues on the bus, scheduling, bullying, etc.? Let us not forget inclement weather closings, that’ll be a hoot!
The entertainment value of watching two excessively staffed yet under-serving bureaucracies disputing authority over such a scenario is limitless. This alleged solution is not at all logical. There are too many moving parts that require daily precision and cooperation—that neither the city nor the county possess—in order to be functional.
Amy Macfarlan stated further in the interview, “Security is the first and foremost concern right there. I would like them not to sit next to an adult stranger we don’t know.” As a tax payer and former school parent, I agree with and support her sentiments. However, realistically, the ACPS proposal is simply not workable. Riders can be problematic enough just getting onto the bus and getting them to take a seat, SOMEWHERE, so the driver can move on. It’s not difficult to imagine the debacle of having to “assign” seats specifically and exclusively for students.
Macfarlan, a mother of a rising first grader and kindergartener, stated that she appreciates the school division’s efforts in finding a solution, but she would drive her kids to school if it came to that point.
The area’s bureaucrats are openly all about “going green,” “saving the environment,” and making the community “sustainable.” If we are to accept this façade of truth, then would not the ACPS be creating the exact environmental situation that local government claims it is endeavoring to eradicate?
Ms. Macfarlan surely will not be the lone parent picking up the baton of responsibility dropped by ACPS. How many vehicles will be added to the daily commute? ACPS has nearly fourteen thousand students on its roster. There is no sufficient amount of carpooling that can negate that potential. Therefore, educational costs, paid in taxes taken from county citizens to feed the ever-growing education budget—for current ACPS parents at least—are further increased by the additional cost of fuel, (rising daily), wear and tear on family vehicles, and the impact it has on the parents TIME.
This could all be so avoidable. I’ve seen the past, and it worked. If the bureaucracy would grant the school bus drivers the AUTHORITY and AUTONOMY to properly handle the RESPONSIBILITY being required, the county would have the personnel it needs to fulfill its stated duty. They would not have to throw large chunks of “We the people’s” money towards an easily solved problem.
It is evident that money is not necessarily the issue. Instead—as in all things touched by government—the solution will require more improvising, adapting, and overcoming by parents. Those whose lifestyles and budgets allow them to will pay the required price, while the rest are once again at the mercy of those supposedly interested in the safety and security of their children.
Former governor Terry McAuliffe most certainly and profoundly made the worst, or depending on one’s point-of-view, the best Freudian slip ever, when he said in essence that parents need to sit down and shut up. Since then, the scab has been ever more pulled back on the rancorous infection called public education. Sadly, the ACPS, for all its self-aggrandizing is revealing the many chinks in its armor.
How many times has the Schilling Show demonstrated what an utter failure ACPS has been in protecting students within their facilities, both physically and emotionally? With this feckless consideration, a student is no longer forfeiting his constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness at the school house threshold, he is now surrendering them at the bus stop.
Instead of all the time and treasure WASTED in renaming schools buildings and curtailing freedom of expression, perhaps the public would be better served if Superintendent Matt Hass and his School Board cabal focused on more productive issues. I suppose though, that many local attorneys are already salivating at the prospect of making both a great name for themselves as well as enlarging their retirement accounts in the legal aftermath of co-mingling student and “public” transportation. No doubt, should the county actually engage this foolish course of action, the lawsuits for assaulted, molested, and injured students will be copious.
“Convenient” policies—like the one proposed by ACPS that allegedly “protects the student,”—in reality work best for school faculty and staff. “We the People” fund the initial madness, and sadly, we also must pay to sweep the dirty remnants under the rug.
Just how many taxpayer dollars are utilized to keep the secrets, well, we may never fully know. Such laxity is standard operating procedure amongst government officials in this community. Or, as many of our overpaid bureaucrats exclaim to one another at the club, “Par for the course.”