Traverse City Record-Eagle

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August 26, 2010

Parents react to bus route changes

TRAVERSE CITY — Karen Mast knew Traverse City's public-school transportation system would be different this fall before she received postcards containing her children's bus routes.

The district's communication has been good, she said. The problem is the change itself.

If the cards from East Middle School are correct, her two older children will board a bus at 6:13 a.m. on Old Mission Peninsula — much earlier than last year. The bell won't ring until 7:40 a.m.

They also were given different drop-off stops for the same address.

"I don't think it's unreasonable to have a certain amount of time on the bus," Mast said. "That's a long time to be on the bus."

Traverse City Area Public Schools administrators acknowledge there might be discrepancies in route details sent to parents. Some have yet to receive cards.

A call center will operate weekdays through Sept. 2 to intercept parents' concerns before students return in two weeks.

"That's on my to-do list today," Mast said Tuesday.

Postcards might not be updated for some students, such as those who split their time between two bus stops, said Paul Soma, TCAPS' chief financial officer.

He encourages parents to call soon if they have questions.

The idea is to avoid the kinds of first-week problems that can arise, such as a computer glitch last year that left some students without a route home on the first day of school.

When the call center opened Tuesday, six people staffed phone lines and answered some questions immediately, Soma said. Other calls were returned later in the day.

"In the past, we weren't able to get back to people quickly, and then simple calls turned into long frustrations," he said. "People are really satisfied about getting through to a voice."

Changes, intended to make the system more efficient, will include carrying students from kindergarten through 12th grade on some routes and requiring parents to register their children for a bus stop.

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