It was chaos in the parking lots at the schools in the Brainerd School District Tuesday.
With the new transportation system up and running for the first day of school, the afternoon run was a mess, Brainerd Superintendent Jerry Walseth said today.
"The worst-case scenario happened last night," he said this morning. "We had a number of issues and if they could go wrong they did."
Walseth said the buses to pick up students after the school bell rang and the time where the students are transferred to another bus at the shuttle site were late.
"We had buses leaving late from the elementary schools and then they got to the shuttle area late so then the second run was late ... It was a domino effect," said Walseth. "We had a couple of pickups an hour and a half late at the middle schools and the rural routes were late."
Walseth said that some of the private schools released the students later, which also caused the buses to leave the sites later.
Some students were on the school bus for up to two and a half hours.
Katherine Stevens, who lives on County Road 8 and is a day care provider, said this morning she had three children who were on the bus for two and a half hours. She said one child was dropped off at her home at 5:28 p.m. Two other children she cares for were dropped off at their homes -- a few miles away -- at 5:05 p.m.
"It's tough for the kids already on the first day of school," she said. "And then to be on the bus for so long."
Stevens said she expected that the buses would be a few minutes late because the routes were redesigned, but not as long as a few hours.
Mary Richards-Wanous of Deerwood has a 6-year-old daughter who attends Riverside.
"This bus schedule is unthinkable," she said. "I may have to reconsider my decision to open enroll my child."
Richards-Wanous said at the last minute Tuesday she decided to pick up her child from school and was happy she did. Her daughter is dropped off at a day care home and she would have been dropped off at 5:30 p.m.
The Brainerd School District administration staff, the district's transportation staff and Reichert Bus Service officials met Tuesday night and this morning to work on how to improve the problems with the transportation system.
Mark Moran, president of Reichert Bus Service, said this morning that he is bound in his contract with the school district to yield all questions dealing with transportation to the superintendent, unless otherwise authorized.
Walseth said the district plans to change a series of things to make the afternoon run better.
The district plans to line the buses up differently at the schools to help the students find their buses easier. The buses are color-coded and the students have a transportation card with the color of the bus they need to take. Walseth said they also will have more cards available to students.
More staff members will be at the transportation sites to help direct students onto the correct bus and will help with traffic.
Walseth said a number of the bus drivers were contacted to go over the issues.
"Our folks are competent to deal with it (the problems)," said Walseth. "The shuttle sites will stay the same."
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