Some parents in Keller schools worry there are too many instances of buses picking up students late, arriving at wrong stops or not showing up for pickups — issues they want the district and Durham School Services to address.
“I want them to be proactive and get on Durham and help them fix these problems,’ said Jimmy Phu, father of three children attending Keller schools. “Show more accountability to parents.”
The district has contracted with Durham for about 10 years. This academic year marks the fifth year of a five-year contract with Durham, whose parent company is National Express. The school board is expected to award a new transportation contract in February of 2019.
Phu is among parents who have been documenting issues with the buses since last spring. Their efforts include correspondence with the bus service.
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Parents worry about their children being stuck at the bus stops because drivers fail to show up. They are also worried that there are too many delays.
In an email to Durham leadership, parent Brianna Rhodes outlined her concerns: “My son rode bus 45 the first week of school and the second day of school the bus picked him up 45 minutes late on the way to school — we had no communication from Durham, I had no idea my child was standing outside waiting, this is unacceptable.”
Parents’ worries were reignited recently when a bus failed to pick up students on Sept. 6.
Erick Peril, father of two students attending Keller Middle School, said the bus didn’t even show up to pick up his son and daughter that day.
“Everybody at the stop didn’t get picked up,” Peril said. “It throws the whole thing into panic.”
Peril said the students were carpooled to school after parents were notified.
Durham acknowledged there were some issues in the first weeks of school and they worked to address them.
“We want to apologize to the parents and students who have experienced bus delays,” said Molly Hart, a spokeswoman for Durham.
Hart said there can be “glitches and hiccups” as the bus service accommodates buses to serve needed routes. Leading up to the Labor Day weekend, the district experienced an influx of students and the bus service had to accommodate by adding routes, she said.
Hart said bus 45 experienced overcrowding so another bus was dispatched to that roue. As a result, a second route was added to the area served by bus 45, she said.
The bus service, which has headquarters in the Chicago area, operates 170 bus routes serving about 11,000 students in Keller schools. Last year, it operated 154 routes.
“While we did have a rough start to the school year in regards to busing, it is our understanding that Durham has since resolved any issues they faced initially and that operations are currently running smoothly,” spokeswoman Nicole McCollum told the Star-Telegram earlier this week.
The district’s transportation routes also includes shuttle services for students in certain programs — such as the Keller Center for Advanced Learning.
The Star-Telegram reported last year that Durham gets about $8 million annually from Keller schools. The district has a student enrollment of about 35,000 students.
The recent complaints are not the first time Keller’s bus service caused community concern.
In June 2017, the Star-Telegram reported that officials with Durham were adding protocols to restore community trust in the service after it was the subject of a CBS Channel 11 report on bus safety.