Guilford County Schools transportation review highlights problems

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Guilford County Schools leaders are determined to improve transportation. This comes after transportation experts pointed out the district is less efficient than similar school systems in North Carolina.

“Our transportation system had a lower efficiency rating than other comparable districts in the state and so that was kind of the beginning part of this process,” said Scott McCully, chief operations officer for Guilford County Schools.

McCully says Superintendent Sharon Contreras' transition team report last year helped uncover the problems.

It got the ball rolling on bringing in the council of great city schools to look at the transportation department back in October.

“A very top to bottom review and then over the next month, month and half prepared a report,” McCully said.

That report highlighting several issues.

One of them being there are too many bus routes.

There are more bus stops in Guilford County making for a longer bus ride for students -- 23 minutes on average. In Wake County, there are fewer bus stops and students spend only an average of 19 minutes on the bus.

“As we improve our systems and being able to upload data from the night before and being able to identify where those changes are in routes, then the more efficient. The less time students are out waiting for a bus, the fewer minutes a student is on the bus and the fuller our buses are,” McCully said.

The report goes on to point out the district's bus transportation facility is too small for the amount of buses it houses and it lacks bus driver training.

McCully says the district wants to add more training throughout the year.

“We may need to be creative about that. It's very easy to bring bus drivers together when there's no routes that need to be serviced. It's much more challenging over the course of the year,” he said.

From the review, there are also recommendations to better streamline communication to parents done through a program called Blackboard and better securing school bus lots.

“We're excited about getting this process started. We have this report that can support a lot of the things that our transportation department has wanted to do,” McCully said.

“We have to make sure that whatever we are doing is based on the actual needs of what the children are, not someone from somewhere else or sitting at an office because they don't know,” said Regina Westray, who has grandchildren in GCS.

Altogether, the district was handed about 25 recommendations.

McCully says the next step for the GCS is to talk about putting some of these improvements in place and then presenting it to the school board.