A rousing cheer rose as the last school bus of the day pulled into Shepard Boulevard Elementary School on Tuesday.
But it wasn’t the students attending summer school who cheered its arrival. It was the teachers.
Their collective expression of joy signaled the end of a rough two days of Columbia’s summer school because bus routing confusion caused some children to return home as late as 7:15 p.m. from their first day of class on Monday.
School officials can’t say yet if they’ve got all the problems solved.
Skip Deming, assistant superintendent of instruction, said the busing confusion occurred because Newton Learning, an independent education contractor hired by the district, routed students by the “child’s regular school” during the school year. First Student, the bus company, routed children by address, just as it does during the school year.
For example, Deming said, some parents were told by Newton that their children would be going to Derby Ridge Elementary when the students were enrolled at Shepard Elementary. Those students had to be put on a shuttle to Shepard. In turn, after the school day was over, the students were shuttled back to the original drop-off points to catch the buses back home.
Deming said that when they found out about the glitch, all they could do was make a list of all the students this might affect. After these students got to a school, the staff put them on a shuttle to the right building.
“It was the afternoon when things really started to unravel,” Deming said, because it was raining and some of the shuttles were running late.
On Tuesday morning, Deming said that administrators tried to identify which students were affected by the mix-up and continued to notify the parents of those children. Parents were given two options: Students could remain at the wrong school to which they were bused on the first day but find their own transportation, or be bused by the district to the correct school. Deming said most parents had the district transport their children.
Parents frustrated, schools make adjustments
Elaine Hassemer, principal at Paxton-Keeley, said that when the children arrived Tuesday morning, their bus numbers were put on their name tags. Hassemer said the morning had gone much better.
Deming said having the correct bus number on each student helped every teacher know which bus to put the children on.
On Monday, Donna Kessell said she waited an hour at the bus stop for her daughter, who is attending summer school at Shepard Elementary. She said she called the school but was told her daughter got on a bus. Kessell then tried to call the bus company, but the lines were busy. By about 5:30 p.m. Monday, she said it had just been too long.
“By 6 p.m., I was ready to call 911,” Kessell said.
Kessell called the school again and found out her daughter was still there.
“I said ‘don’t put her on a bus’ and went and got her,” she said.
Kessell said her daughter didn’t want to go back to school by the time she got home, but it wasn’t hard to get her to go the next morning.
“She said her first-hour teacher is so much fun,” Kessell said.
Denise Ross, who has two children attending summer school at Paxton-Keeley, said that although she originally thought her kids would use the bus, they would not for the rest of the summer.
“I made them ride the bus yesterday (Monday), and it took two hours for them to get home,” she said.
Deming did deal with angry parents and said that some people did decide to pull their kids out of summer school, but mostly that people were glad the schools resolved the issue. He did not say how many students were dropped from enrollment.
Preliminary numbers showed about 6,302 students came the first day, said Roy Moeller, operations manager for Newton Learning. Moeller said more than 7,000 students were enrolled in the program before school began.
— Missourian reporters Tara Stepanek and Suzanne Lackey contributed to this report.