CMS considers ending door-to-door bus service for thousands of students

CHARLOTTE — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is considering a plan to eliminate door-to-door school bus service for more than 5,000 magnet school students.

The proposal comes as the district struggles to keep its bus routes staffed.

CMS officials say due to vacancies, people on leave and daily absences, the district has around 180 bus drivers out each day.

“We are running the risk of not being able to get kids to school for teaching and learning,” said Adam Johnson, executive director of transportation services for CMS. “I just want to implore you to understand that we are at that breaking point with our operation, it’s just not there.”

If the “Express Stops” plan were to be implemented, students would travel to their closest “Express Stop” based on which magnet school they attend. From there, the bus would take them to school and drop them off at the same spot at the end of the day.

Right now, it would only apply to high school students enrolled in magnet schools that are not their home school.

The district has hosted community engagement meetings for weeks where many people have voiced their opposition.

While it is still only a proposal, some students and their parents are envisioning what it would be like to get to school each day.

“I get up at like 5 a.m. right now, and then me having to potentially get up at like 4:30 a.m.,” said Joshua Watts, a student at Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology.

“Then I would have to pick him up in the afternoon and that’s in the middle of my work day,” said Kim Watts, Joshua’s mother. “You take away a key component like transportation, I mean you’re shaking up people’s personal lives and that’s not fair.”

Other parents say the plan simply isn’t feasible for their children.

“Between our home and that school, there are no sidewalks, so it’s not safe for her to walk even if she could walk,” said Samantha Smith, whose daughter has attended magnet schools for close to a decade.

Smith is now having to consider a huge change in her child’s education.

“Transportation played a major, major role when it comes to being able to get her to and from school, I’m a single parent, so I’m very dependent on the school bus,” she said.

Earlier this week, school board members pressed CMS staff about the plan and why the district is only focusing on magnet schools.

“What I worry about is the parents whose kids didn’t apply for (magnet schools), because of the Express Stops,” said board member Summer Nunn. “I think this is inequitable, what we’re doing.”

That’s a concern shared by parents like Smith.

“Instead of certain groups having to make these adjustments, why not make the adjustments all across the board and sort of spread the wealth?” she said.

A survey on the express stop plan ended on Friday, but the district will hold another community engagement meeting on April 18 at West Mecklenburg High School from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. to hear once more from the public.

More information on the ‘Express Stops’ plan can be found on the CMS website.

(WATCH BELOW: CMS leaders concerned about funding security in proposed budget)

Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.

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