Gary bus woes accelerate, district blasts Illinois Central
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org/648-3154 September 5, 2012 4:06PM
Updated: October 7, 2012 7:59AM
GARY — Three weeks into the school year and the district’s helter skelter bus service is still throttling students and parents.
On Wednesday, the district seemed poised to toss its transportation provider, Illinois Central, under the bus.
“We’re going to the next steps to see what else can be done,” Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said. “If I get another company, it would take me two or three months, even if I could break the contract.”
The school district sent out a press release Wednesday saying that principals had reported that bus drivers were refusing to transport children, saying they are not on their routes.
Spokeswoman Sarita Stevens said Illinois Central changed routes Aug. 29, but the changes created more problems and some students ended up with no bus service.
Parent Yoti Kale said she’s been driving her son, Stephen, 12, to the Banneker Achievement Center in Miller from their Glen Park home because the bus no longer picks him up.
“From Aug. 16-29, he was being picked up and dropped off as he should be,” said Kale. “Then we got an automated call from the superintendent saying things would change, but it was about a walk zone, so it didn’t apply to us.”
But Kale said on Aug. 30, the school bus never showed up at 7:30 a.m. so she drove her son across town to school and was late for work.
“Banneker was full of very irate parents. I wasn’t the only one. Secretaries were running around trying to copy new schedules.”
Since Monday, Stephen still hasn’t been picked up by the bus.
“Every time I call the transportation department, it rings or goes to voice mail or the mailbox is full. No one ever returns my call.”
The school district signed a contract last year with Illinois Central that pays the company $5 million to provide bus service.
Illinois Central spokesman Jamal Washington said he had no comment on the charges made by the district.
Pruitt said she’s turned to the state for support in deciphering the bus route schedule. “The owner of the company and I sat down about three weeks ago and we thought everything was OK. But viable pickups haven’t been done.”
Pruitt said when routes are changed, parents aren’t notified.
In addition, Pruitt said special needs children were not being picked up at their homes, as required. “That’s another issue we’ve given them to address.”
This year, because of a budget crunch, elementary students who live within a mile of school must walk. Middle and high school students who live within two miles must walk to school.