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Unit Five Parents Sound Off On Bus Problems

Melissa Schoper

The Unit 5 School Board last night heard parent concerns about new bus routes. More students are riding fewer buses due to a change in school start times, and budget cuts.

Some routes have children spending two hours on a bus when they only live ten minutes away. Parents and First Student bus drivers said buses are overcrowded and routes are confusing.

Unit 5 Board President Meta Mickens-Baker said she's grateful parents spoke about their bad experiences so the district can start correcting them.

"We certainly had an expectation that school would start smoothly and that our transportation department, our vendor was ready to start school, so it's a lot of information we learned tonight about situations that are not acceptable, that we certainly didn't want to happen and didn't expect to happen," said Mickens-Baker.

Mickens-Baker said the board has met with First Student about the route issues and looks forward to see improved routes starting this Thursday afternoon.  

Complaints from parents include safety concerns, overcrowding, and students being dropped off at the wrong stop. Among those addressing the board was Bloomington State Representative Dan Brady, who has a child in Unit 5. Brady said he wants to help create a solution, even though his son does not ride a school bus.

"The reality is, we have to figure out how to resolve this for the students and the parents of this district, and I pledge my support to do whatever I can in my position to help accomplish that," said Brady.

Some parents mentioned crowded seats and students standing. Tom Sennett is a Normal Firefighter and father of a fifth grader. He said he tried to talk to both Dr. Daniel and Mickens-Baker about safety after some buses were involved in crashes.

"We've got a major problem. As a board you've got a major problem. I finally got a hold of Ms. Baker and after several long discussions, I said to her on Friday, 'Can you guarantee my daughter's safety on Monday?' And you said, 'No, I can not." What are we doing here? As a board what are doing here," said Sennett.

Unit 5 Superintendent Dr. Daniel said he has spoken to the officials at First Student and said management is addressing the issue. 

Mike joined GLT's staff as a student reporter in February of 2016 having worked previously as a reporter at Illinois State University's student radio station, 103.3 WZND. He acted as a director for the WZND newsroom for two years. Mike was also seen as a reporter, producer, and anchor at TV-10 News. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism in May of 2017 before starting his post-graduate career with the Public Affairs Reporting Masters Program at University of Illinois Springfield.
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