DALLAS –– Traditional yellow school buses rather than vans and SUVs will line up outside of Harry Stone Montessori Academy Friday. The southern Dallas school will no longer use the district’s alternative transportation program, which shuttles students to campuses in SUVs, vans and other nontraditional vehicles.
Dallas ISD and Dallas County Schools are scaling back the controversial third party transportation policy that had some students traveling in taxis and angered a lot of parents like Dora Mendoza.
"I'm not going to believe it until I see that the buses are there and that the SUV's and taxis and whatever else are gone." Mendoza said after receiving a call from Dallas County Schools last night.
DCS also alerted parents to the changes with a letter that went out Thursday morning. The policy has disrupted the Mendoza family schedule for two weeks because she's been leaving work early to pick up her 12-year-old daughter.
Earlier this week the decision was made to scrap the taxi service, but after a meeting with Harry Stone parents Wednesday night, district officials, including superintendent Mike Miles decided to make even more policy changes. Susan Falvo is spokesperson for Dallas County Schools.
"As far as I know it's because of parental concerns." Falvo said when asked why the district was rethinking the policy.
Falvo also said there were some parents who were happy with their transportation arrangements, despite a number of parents who complained.
On Friday, all Harry Stone students will be picked up with buses. By Monday, 10 of 31 deaf education routes will get buses.
Next Friday an additional 11 deaf education routes will get vans with DCS monitors. Some elementary schools using third party vehicles will also get buses.
DCS and DISD are also developing plans to migrate some routes at other schools includingGeorge Bannerman Dealey Montessori, J.P. Starks Elementary, William B. Travis Middle School and K.B. Polk Elementary from other vehicles to yellow school buses.
Falvo said this will reduce the number of students traveling in third party vehicles from an estimated 2,200 to around 1,500, but Falvo stopped short of saying the program is ending.
“I don't think so. In all fairness the program worked very well last year," she said.
DCS, which is in charge of DISD’s transportation program, this year began having students who classes at Montessori, vanguard, magnet and special program schools in the district be picked up in nontraditional vehicles. Officials said it was a move to cut transportation costs.
DCS contracted out with Santa Ana, California-based American Logistics Company, which provides the driving service for districts looking to save money in their transportation budgets.
The drivers are credentialed through the company and each vehicle was inspected prior to the beginning of the school year. ALC personnel met with staff, conducted dry runs, and brought in extra personnel to help out.
Even so, many parents were still uncomfortable with the arrangement, especially those whose children were being transported in taxicabs. ALC stopped using taxis and began marking vehicles with fluorescent placards identifying them as Dallas ISD vehicles.
Still, many parents at Harry Stone were not satisfied.
“I really think that they need to do it district wide.” Mendoza said. “I don’t know if they are doing it at our school because maybe we screamed louder or our parents are a little more involved, but I think it should be district wide.”
Despite the letter indicating buses will be available tomorrow, Mendoza said she will still take her daughter to school and pick her up Friday afternoon. She wants to make sure the buses are in place and the routes are not confused. Until she sees her daughter on a bus, Mendoza says she'll never see the program as a success.