Frustrated Parents Say School Bus Situation in Norwalk is a Mess

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NORWALK, Iowa -- Bad information in Norwalk has parents guessing about when and where their kids need to be to get to school. Some parents have had to leave work in order to pick-up or drop-off their kids. The school district has provided the wrong information to families about which buses students belong on, and what time they should get picked up.

Brian Greer's third grade daughter had a rough first day of school on Tuesday morning. "She got on bus # 2, ended up at Oviatt Elementary. She was supposed to be at Lakewood," said Brian Greer, a frustrated parent. So, Greer called the district to find out what the issue was. "I said, at this point, what do you want me to do? Which bus do I put her on? So, I came to the conclusion with the secretary, bus # 3. So, she (Greer's daughter) waits for bus # 3, which is supposedly the correct bus, but the parent portal site still shows bus #2 at 7:37 AM, and I`ve got multiple emails saying it`s corrected, but nothing`s changed from Tuesday," said Greer.

The Superintendent says part of the problem is the new software the district is using. "We migrated from, I would say, more of a traditional kind of hand written excel spreadsheet type of transportation system to a new software program, and so we`ve experienced definitely some difficulties in that transition," said Duane (D.T.) Magee, Superintendent of the Norwalk Community School District. Magee says the other part of the problem is the district's transportation department has had a lot of turnover. "Through that, some nuances get lost in translation," said Magee. Important data and transportation information is also getting lost in translation. “We found out that there were some errors that we didn’t anticipate, didn’t know were going to happen and that caused some errors in the data. For example, if a comma was in a specific field, it might kick out the data as bad and then go to (an) automatic value, so some students had a pickup time of 12 AM. Well, obviously we’re not picking up students at midnight. So, we started to identify those and so it’s been a process of elimination where we have been narrowing down where the problems exist, and now we’re getting to the point where our system is getting more robust," said Magee.

Greer has had a taste of that data getting lost in translation. "On the parent portal site, it says bus # 3 picks up the kids down there at that stop at 7:54 AM, and then the secretary said, 'oh, well, you know that`s gotta be incorrect because they`d be late for school every morning,' so, I don`t know if there`s really even a set time," said Greer. "What frustrated me, to be honest with you, is that they asked for money to be paid for the bus by the end of June or you received a late fee for each student, and I mean if parents are paying for the bus, I would expect them to get the service.

“The problem is this all occurred right at the start of the school year and there’s a lot of excitement and a lot of expectations and unfortunately we’ve fallen short on those expectations for our community, and we’re striving every day to make this better," said Magee.