Stop sending unsafe buses on the road.
That was the message on the sign school bus driver Felicia Anderson held up at a Charleston County School Board meeting Monday night where she and several others aired their concerns over school bus safety.
The school board unanimously voted to create an ad hoc committee to investigate a host of concerns regarding Durham School Services, which provides school bus transportation for Charleston County schools. School board members Michael Miller, Craig Ascue and Rev. Chris Collins will serve on the committee along with two school district employees. The committee will evaluate a variety of issues including bus maintenance, sanitation, overcrowding and employee-employer work relations.
With bugs a constant issue on her bus, Anderson said she worries about children being bitten. She said bugs also cause unsafe driving conditions by causing a commotion among the children, who often run toward the front of the bus while she is driving.
Several parents told the school board about ongoing issues with school buses running late to pick up students in the morning and drop them off in the afternoon because of mechanical problems. One mother of a Wando High School student said her daughter's bus is regularly crowded with as many as 60 to 70 students.
A number of parents and bus drivers also spoke in support of driver Marquette Cooper Alston who was fired by Durham last year for using a cell phone while driving a bus. Alston's supporters said she was a trusted driver who regularly called parents to let them know if she was running late.
Earlier this month Durham filed a federal lawsuit against Teamsters Local 509 of West Columbia over a dispute about whether Alston should have been fired. A union-related grievance committee said Alston was fired without just cause but Durham said the committee unfairly ignored evidence justifying her termination.
The new committee will investigate these concerns and provide a report to the full school board at its second meeting in May.
Reach Amanda Kerr at 937-5546 or at Twitter.com/PCAmandaKerr.