Over-Crowded Buses

13 percent of the total 1,485 school bus runs at DeKalb Schools are over-crowded.

Stan Jester
Board Of Education
District 1

The DeKalb County School District’s (DCSD) Transportation Department transports approximately 60,000 students daily. As of October 11, 2015, the department has a bus driver allotment of 878 drivers of which 822 positions are “actively” engaged in providing daily bus transportation support for 803 routes. The District has a total school bus fleet of 1,009 school buses with an average age of 10.1 years. The District maintains a minimum of 950 schools buses, to include 100 spares, to ensure bus availability to support the District’s daily transportation operations. The DeKalb County School District follows the industry standard of three students per seat for grades K-5 and two students per seat for grades 6-12.
At the Board of Education meeting this month, many bus drivers showed up for public comments to explain some concerns they have. As reported by Marlon A. Walker in the AJC, “Sometimes, bus driver Kim Davis says, the school buses in DeKalb County are so full of students that some are forced to stand the whole way to school.”
Cathy Douglas, president of the Bus Advisory Council, said she believed the district was down about 70 bus drivers and did not have the buses needed to handle every route. “Children are late every day because of no drivers,” she said. “On some buses, there are as many as 80 students on 64-passenger buses. If a bus breaks down, we’re in trouble.”
The school district’s analysis and response last week to over-crowded buses:

Subject: Strategic Overview to Address Over-Crowded Buses
By: Superintendent Stephen Green

Analysis/ Findings
The Transportation Department conducted a capacity/utilization analysis of all bus routes and identified bus runs over capacity by one or more students. Based upon this internal analysis, approximately 13 percent of the total 1,485 school bus runs are over-crowded at this time. As of October 11, 2015, there are 196 bus runs identified as being over-crowded. However, this does not imply that all over-crowded school bus runs have students standing while the bus is in motion. The following prioritization strategy is being utilized to address these issues in the short-term:

  • Priority #1: More than 16 students over bus capacity
  • Priority #2: Between 6 and 15 students over bus capacity
  • Priority #3: Less than 6 students over bus capacity

Short-Term Strategy
The District’s short-term strategy focuses on resolving all over-crowded runs no later than October 23, 2015. The following key actions will be taken over the next several days:

  • Continue to validate ridership in collaboration with schools and Transportation staff
  • Balance loads and reassign students to new bus runs as appropriate
  • Where load balancing is not feasible, additional drivers and/or double runs will be utilized
  • Partner with school bus transportation service vendors as a supplemental resource to address overcrowding
  • Effectively communicate student route changes to all impacted stakeholders prior to implementation

Long-Term Strategy
The District will continue to further develop a comprehensive long term strategy (3 to 5 years) to balance student ridership across the District. This long term strategy will consider the following key areas as we seek to build additional capacity to ensure scalability and accommodate future growth:

  • Conduct a thorough analysis of the Transportation management structure and operations to enhance the District’s school bus service delivery
  • Significantly reduce the annual employee turnover rate by hiring and retaining a larger pool of highly qualified school bus drivers and monitors
  • Improve internal and external communications with all stakeholders
  • Purchase additional buses in accordance with the District’s school bus replacement cycle
  • Determine annual funding requirements for long term sustainability

5 responses to “Over-Crowded Buses

  1. More reactive posturing from DCSS. It took bus drivers complaining before DCSS was aware of this situation—and made an effort to respond?

  2. Bus drivers have been complaining about this for years. When I was Car-lane King, I would count 75 + students getting off 64 passenger buses every day.
    Not only is Dr. Green listening (which is a very welcome change) he is responding.
    I am even more impressed with his response.
    It doesn’t blame anyone, is logical, and lists concrete steps.
    The only thing missing is a commitment to follow up and share the resolution.
    Thank you Stan and the rest of the BOE for hiring Dr. Green. You made a very good choice.

  3. Bruce s. Curtiss

    I’m damn sick and tired of my DeKalb tax dollars going to such a corrupt and poorly-run school system. I’m glad my son is in a private school. Remember, folks, elections matter.

  4. Adrienne Duncan

    Timely article, Stan. Have a story for you that’s somewhat related. My son’s (special ed) bus to Coralwood is occasionally late not because of crowding but because there are days when the engine just won’t turn over. On days like that we get texts if the driver is delayed at the barn, then we decide if we have to take our kids down to Coralwood or just wait to catch up.
    P got dropped off at home today – with a WONDERFUL driver who cares for these pre-K kids as if they were her own – who told me how they finally got the engine cranked but had to drive around making her routes with the engine light on the entire way. Money seems to be going for something somewhere but not enough is making it to basic equipment or maintenance. If I could buy her a new bus for Christmas I would in a heartbeat.

  5. Adrienne Duncan

    AND – while we’re at it….
    When Mi was at Chesnut ES, there were days when it would be almost 90 minutes before they got home.
    Two full-size buses serve Chesnut. But if one of them broke down (which seemed to be around once every other month) then one bus had to run two routes. Rather than overcrowd the bus, a single driver ran the routes in sequence, while the kids in our neighborhood waited at school (teachers provided an activity or play time) before they could get home an hour later.
    Maintenance and equipment life have to factor into Dr. Green’s equation somewhere.