Education

CMS bus runs are practice, but traffic clogs will be real

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools bus drivers start making practice runs Monday in anticipation of the Aug. 29 start of school.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools bus drivers start making practice runs Monday in anticipation of the Aug. 29 start of school. Observer file photo

More than 1,000 school buses will hit Mecklenburg County’s roads before dawn Monday morning – but don’t panic if your kids aren’t on them.

It’s the start of four days of practice, as a larger number of buses tackle longer and more complex routes designed to help students have access to magnet schools. Students report to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools on Aug. 29.

CMS will have 1,052 buses driving routes this year, with 48 of them added to accommodate the new offerings for magnet schools. During the recession, the district eliminated neighborhood bus stops for students as many magnet schools, instead requiring parents to get their students to and from shuttle stops at nearby schools.

We are not trying to slow you down. It’s just the nature of our business.

CMS Transportation Director Janet Thomas

Starting this year, CMS is giving magnet families the option to stick with shuttle stops – which can provide a sort of express route to distant schools – or choose neighborhood pickup and dropoff. The tradeoff is longer rides for those students, a bigger transportation expense for CMS and a shortage of drivers.

At the middle of last week, CMS needed 90 drivers. For now, those routes will be covered by substitutes and office staff who are licensed to drive buses.

“Every bus will roll,” said Transportation Director Janet Thomas. “It won’t be with a permanent driver, but it will be with a certified and trained driver.”

The first student pickups will be at 5 a.m., and the last scheduled dropoff at 6 p.m. Thomas said her staff will provide traffic updates to local media starting at 4:30 a.m., knowing that the slow-moving, frequently-stopping behemoths throw a clog into rush-hour traffic.

“No one can mess up traffic like we can,” Thomas quipped. “We are not trying to slow you down. It’s just the nature of our business.”

Families with questions about assignments to buses or schools can call 980-343-6715, or look for general information at www.cms.k12.nc.us

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms

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