CORTLAND, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — NewsChannel 9 is investigating after the Your Stories team heard from parents in the Cortland Enlarged City School District that the new transportation plan is causing confusion.
Some parents say they spent more than an hour calling the district last Thursday, looking for their kids after they didn’t come home from school on time.
Since then, more than 1,000 people are continuing to sign a petition, calling for the district to create an emergency task force to solve the issue.
It’s the first time students are coming back to school since the district’s merger, where they now have three elementary schools instead of five.
Stacy and John Burns, whose son goes to Smith Elementary, said they understand how there could be some delays on the first day. However, they also said the way the school treated their seven-year-old is unacceptable.
Their child was supposed to be dropped off at an after school program where his mom would then pick him up. Instead, Burns said the bus driver dropped him off nearly half a mile away from their house when no one was home.
“I never would have dropped a kid alone like that. So, how they can call that in their policy, the policy is wrong. And that’s part of the problem. People need to speak up and tell them if this is happening, the policy needs to change. It’s not safe, it’s not safe for my kid. A dollar was saved for my child’s safety and other kids,” Stacy Burns said.
Cortland Superintendent, Michael Hoose responded to the claims with the following statement, apologizing for the inconvenience and concern this brought to parents:
“After the opening day, numerous changes were implemented to alleviate some of the issues. Friday was better than Thursday, but we still have a long way to go to be where we feel the process is acceptable to students, parents, and staff.”Michael Hoose, Superintendent, Cortland Enlarged City School District
Hoose said the district is now working to “get it right.”
Read the full statement from the district below:
“We have received numerous concerns regarding the afternoon transportation and student pickup procedures at the elementary schools. I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, concern, and inefficiencies of the process to date. Staff have spoken to several parents in person, on the phone, and through email. I will also be meeting with some of the parents who have the greatest issues or concerns. We appreciate the amount of understanding and patience displayed by parents and understand their frustration and concern.
After the opening day, numerous changes were implemented to alleviate some of the issues. Friday was better than Thursday, but we still have a long way to go to be where we feel the process is acceptable to students, parents, and staff.
There are a number of factors contributing to the current situation. Some were not fully realized and some we never could have anticipated. We never anticipated the number of last minute changes to the needs of parents. Some changes to transportation requests arrived hours or minutes before dismissal leaving no time to efficiently process the changes. We were not ready for the transportation changes associated with grade centers versus our old K-6 model because we had no experience with the new model. Our goal was to transport as many students as possible, satisfy before and after school day care needs, and have all elementary buildings ride the same bus at pickup. That is why we started the shuttle system between buildings. We were also committed to allowing students to walk to any elementary building to be bused to their grade level building. Parents did not want three building-specific buses showing up at their home.
We did our best to accommodate all of the suggestions generated from the public forums, Community Transition Committee, building level committees, and individual requests.
School transportation is a complex process involving multiple runs during the day including BOCES Career and Technical , runs for students with special needs to multiple sites, before and after school day care providers, George Junior, sports, field trips, daily trips to Syracuse and Ithaca, multiple private schools, and now a charter school, in addition to the regular pickup and drop off of students. All of our people come to school each day wanting to do their best work.
Again, I personally apologize for the turmoil and confusion that has occurred. Rest assured that we will continue to improve and “get it right.”
Michael J. Hoose, Superintendent
Your Stories matter to NewsChannel 9. Call 315-446-9900, email YourStories@LocalSYR.com or use the form below.