FRANKLIN TWP. — Parents are concerned about their child's safety in one Indiana school district where they say the number of students riding in a seat feels to be too many. And it all boils down to the need for more drivers.
Jesse Pennington relies on the school bus every day to get his child to and from their Franklin Township school safely.
"The kids are about three to a seat," Pennington said. "It's hard for them to walk, and it takes a minute for them to get off the bus. And to load on the bus. Sardines in a can."
"They are crowded," Dana Trees, parent of a child who rides a Franklin Township bus, said. "You were going to have that everywhere. I actually drive from Warren Township, and we have parents complaining that our kids are three to a seat as well."
A district spokesman says the buses are full but not considered overcrowded.
On average, 75 elementary students are assigned to a bus with 28 seats. Most buses can carry 84 or 78 passengers depending on the model.
Typically, three elementary students are sharing a seat and up to four students on older model buses.
State law recommends three elementary school kids, or two high school kids, can fit in a seat on a typical school bus.
"From what I see, it's a little crowded," Nicole Alexander, another parent, said. "But I know they do have signs around the corner that says they are hiring for bus drivers I think it's a matter of getting people in and getting them trained and getting the help they need."
"They don't have the funds to be compensated like the other schools can," Trees said. "I know with me and looking into it I would have taken a four dollar an hour pay cut. This time and age when you have a single parent it's not feasible to do that."
A Franklin Township spokesman says they are seeing an increase in the number of students this year and are working to alleviate the full buses quickly.
The spokesman did say it takes a few weeks into the school year to determine which students are regular bus riders and which buses may have extra space. He's hoping that will be done by the third week of school.
Drivers starting pay range is from $16 to $20 per hour, based on experience, plus full benefits. Pay ranges vary throughout the state.
For drivers interested in applying to be a bus driver, the district does provide training.
Read full Q&A with Franklin Township Spokesperson below:
Are Franklin Township buses considered overcrowded?
Our buses are full, but not overcrowded. Once school begins, we are able to better identify which students are regular bus riders and which buses may have space to alleviate buses that are full. This should be done by the third week of school. Changes to bus routes and times are disruptive and we try to keep them to a minimum.
How many students are able to safely ride on a school bus?
Our buses have capacity of either 84 passengers or 78 passengers depending on the bus model.
On average, how many students are assigned to a bus?
The average elementary bus has about 75 students assigned. The average middle school bus has about 40 students assigned. The average high school bus has about 30 students assigned.
How many seats are on the buses?
On the general education bus, there are usually 28 seats.
Are students riding 3 and 4 in a seat?
Many of our elementary school buses have 3 to a seat. There are a few seats with 4 Kindergarten students due to their smaller size. These students must fit within the seats which our older larger buses do accommodate. We have seen an increase in enrollment this year which has impacted the number of bus riders and bus routes. Again, we are working quickly to find ways to alleviate full buses.
Is this safe? If so, how?
Student safety is our #1 priority and we follow state law. Every student is seated within the confines of the school bus seat. Also, we have very short routes so most students ride only a short distance before the first stop when more space becomes available.
- School Bus Capacity Indiana Law IC 20-27-10-3 Capacity of school bus Sec. 3. A governing body may not require a school bus driver to transport students for whom a regular seat is not available in the school bus. Capacity – Seat Size & Number Federal regulation does not specify the number of persons that can sit on a school bus seat. The school bus manufacturers determine the maximum seating capacity of a school bus. The manufacturers use this number, which is based on sitting three small elementary school age persons per typical 39 inch school bus seat, in the calculations for determining the gross vehicle weight rating and the number of emergency exits. School transportation providers generally determine the number of persons that they can safely fit into a school bus seat. Generally they fit three smaller elementary school age persons or two adult high school age persons into a typical 39 inch school bus seat. https://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/transportation/seating-capacity-school-buses.pdf [doe.in.gov]
Are there seatbelts on the bus?
We have 25 out of roughly 95 buses that are equipped with seat belts. Every bus we purchase now has seat belts.
Is there a shortage of bus drivers?
There is a national shortage of bus drivers. We are no exception. We are always looking for bus drivers and substitute bus drivers.
How many bus drivers are needed in the district?
We need a minimum of 90 bus drivers each day. Again, we are always looking for bus drivers and substitute bus drivers.
Is this a problem that is new this year or how long has it been an issue?
This has been a national issue for many years. This is generally the #1 problem of every school transportation department again, no exception here.
Is this part of a bigger issue dealing with a shortage of bus drivers across the state?