Changed Bus Routes Irk Augusta Caretakers

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Dozens of parents and grandparents in Augusta County are unhappy with recent changes to school bus routes. Those affected are going to the school board and complaining that the changes have put them in a bind for after-school care options.

School leaders say changing the bus routes, which occurred a week before the school year began, was an effort to be efficient. But some of those complaining say not enough notice was given  to accommodate the shifts.

Donna Rankin is a single grandparent managing the responsibilities of a full-time job plus raising her two young grandkids. So when Augusta County Public Schools axed the bus stop at the day care center her granddaughter Brianna attends, Rankin did not know what to do.

"It's been confusing for the children. My granddaughter is confused as to when her grandfather's picking her up, when I'm picking her up," Rankin said.

For years, Brianna's gone to Wonderland Enrichment Center. "She feels comfortable and secure. It's like an extended family," Rankin said.

School leaders say they had to change the route because the stop crossed over district lines.

"Each year, we revise bus routes to try to be more efficient, to try to save fuel, to make sure the buses aren't overcrowded or under-utilized," said Augusta County Schools Superintendent Chuck Bishop.

Bishop says the school system has looked into alternatives, such as issuing students a waiver to attend schools near their day care centers. Wonderland's owner, Carol Maddox, says that is not in the best interest of the children.

"That meant that we would have some kindergarten students that would have to uproot, move to a different school, when they just got settled into their program," Maddox said.

She and others affected have requested that the students at Clymore Elementary School transfer over at Stuart Middle School, which stops at her day care center.

"This is a day care, and something that parents rely on so that they can work," Maddox said.

So far, school leaders have not budged.  "If we start doing special transportation, where will that end?" Bishop said.

At this point, the superintendent says none of the families has expressed interest in transferring schools, so things appear to be at an impasse.