An east county school district has cut down on the number of bus routes in operation, outraging some parents who say the change has negatively affected children with special needs and elementary age students.
The Alpine Union School District (AUSD) eliminated two bus routes during spring break, reducing the number of buses used to transport its students to and from school from seven to five.
Kristina Chovan is worried about how the changes are affecting her son with autism. She says her child is now forced to ride a crowded bus with other students who don't understand his needs.
"Those are really important when you have students that have sensory overloads, that go into meltdown when the buses are too loud," lhovan said. "They have anxiety. My son is one of them."
She expressed her concerns to the district at a school board meeting last week.
AUSD Superintendent Richard Newman admitted the transition wasn’t as seamless as he'd hoped but parents were notified changes were coming.
"We communicated about the route changes on multiple occasions during spring break and continue to make adjustments to better serve our families and students," Newman said in a statement to NBC 7.
But Chovan said the changes were announced too late.
With fewer buses on the road, pick-ups are earlier and drop-offs are later, which can mean kids are waiting too long for the bus or, in some cases, missing it entirely, according to parents.
"Monday, bus was late. Tuesday, bus was late," Christine Lerma, a parent with children at two different schools said. "They actually missed the bus in the morning over ten minutes because they had showed up 10 minutes early. My children were also dropped off almost half an hour late."
One child was even dropped off at the wrong school entirely, according to a parent who spoke at a school board meeting last week.
Some kindergarteners are sitting in a bus for more than an hour for what should be a 20-minute trip, according to Lerma.
Some bus drivers are concerned about the route changes, also.
"Now it's more difficult and we're down to 5 large capacity buses and no small bus/wheelchair bus," said Holly Hernandez, an AUSD bus driver for 23 years and California School Employees Association Alpine Chapter 607 President. "We're still overcrowded and our routes are running way too long in the afternoons."
The buses are contracted through Grossmont Union High School. A spokesperson for the high school said any decisions about transportation must be made through the district.
Parents are pushing the district to reconsider the route changes or wait until the summer to find a more effective solution.
"The letter that they sent was that they were changing these routes for safety and efficiency and it has been anything but," Lerma said.
The district has not made any indication they plan to change routes back.