The start of school is less than a week away for students in Huntsville, as they head back to class on Monday, August 6th.
WAAY 31 wants to make sure parents across the Tennessee Valley are ready for a new school year. In Huntsville, a focus is on the district's new bus provider, Apple Bus.
School bus changes for Huntsville students
While the company is new, for now, the school bus routes are not.
"Huntsville, as sort of a forward tech-town, we ought to have efficient bus systems. We ought to be able to track and keep up," said Louise Carter, a local parent.
Louise Carter has two students in Huntsville City Schools who plan to ride the bus in the afternoon.
After years of complaints and problems with Durham Bus Services, Huntsville City Schools decided to officially part ways for the 2018-2019 school year.
One of the biggest problems for parents with Durham was late pick up's, late arrivals and a long ride home.
"Our next door neighbors have not been using the bus also because of the disconnect between the bus and the school and the family," said Carter.
After some of those issues, Carter decided to take her kids off the bus last school year.
" We never really knew for sure when they were going to get dropped off and there wasn't a lot of clear communication about where the bus was, if things were running late," explained Carter.
This year, Carter is giving the new operator, Apple Bus, a chance.
Now, her concern is if her students' bus routes will be impacted in two weeks.
"If they change them from bus 11 to 43, or something like that, just making sure they are where they are supposed to be and that I have a way, if they dont go where they're supposed to be, that I have a way of reaching out to someone that is in charge and saying 'can you take care of my child while we get them to the right spot?'" asked Carter.
To start a new school year with the new bus service, the school district plans to keep the same bus routes it ended with last school year.
"I hope they'll review it and come back with a more efficient means of getting the kids home," said Carter.
Huntsville School Board President Elisa Ferrell explained the reasoning to WAAY 31.
"We create the bus routes based on student registration and where the students were last year,. So they're the same as they were last year. If we have new students come in, then we will reevaluate as we figure out where they are," explained Ferrell.
District leaders are not adding any stops to bus routes, or taking any away, until August 20th. The district will then make any needed changes on a weekly basis.
"After two weeks is when our student registration slows down and we have a more consistent student population. So by that point, we'll know where the students are and we'll be adding extra stops so those parents dont have to drive their students somewhere. So it's actually going to be more convenient for them," added Ferrell.
160 buses filled with students will run everyday. School district leaders say that's about the same number of buses as last year.
"Huntsville is spread out, unfortunately, we are spread into two counties. So unfortunately we do have some long bus routes," said Scott Gillies, the Transportation Coordinator for the school district.
Huntsville city schools is Apple Bus' biggest fleet of buses.
The company says it's working to troubleshoot any issues before the school year starts.
"We're trying to anticipate the problems we know and figure out the ones that maybe are going to surprise us. We have bulked up all our staff in all areas, drivers, office, maintenance. We continue to hire maintenance and drivers obviously," said Stephanie Shaw, with Apple Bus.
Right now, Apple Bus says there are enough drivers to start the school year but plan to continue hiring.
The Carter family is hopeful this school year will be a new start and better experience for her kids.
"This is actually a surprise and a welcome change, for this family anyway," added Carter.
The new buses are equipped with WiFi and air conditioning.
Parents can also now track their students bus in real time with a free app for cellphones. For information on the new SafeStop App and how to download it, visit https://www.huntsvillecityschools.org/departments/operations/transportation/safestop-app.
Huntsville City Schools also has their bus routes online for parents to view, visit https://www.huntsvillecityschools.org/busroutes to view your students route.
WAAY 31 is also working to learn the bus routes for all of our local school districts.
Colbert County Schools are working on finalizing their school bus routes. Due to staffing, the school district is having to consolidate several of the routes. There are not maps posted online but transportation leaders say the routes will be similar to the ones last school year. Students are encouraged to be at the bus stop around 6:30 AM. The district is also implementing a color coding system. Each student will have an assigned color that matches what bus they are assigned to. The buses will also have the color visible for students.
Muscle Shoals City Schools does not run bus routes for students.
Sheffield City Schools: We are waiting for a call back.
Tuscumbia City Schools does not run bus routes for students.
Dekalb County Schools: We are waiting for a call back.
Fort Payne City Schools says students will be told their assigned bus and route during open houses on August 6th and 7th. For the most part, the routes are the same as last school year. There are only a few bus numbers changing. If parents still have questions after that, they are asked to call the Transportation Department at (256) 845-9288.
Franklin County Schools are getting 44 new buses this year. For the most part, the bus numbers will remain the same as last year for students. The routes are also consistent with how they ended last school year. Students are encouraged to be at the bus stop around 6:50 AM-7:20 AM.
Russellville City Schools: We are waiting for a call back.
Jackson County Schools: We are waiting for a call back.
Scottsboro City Schools: We are waiting for a call back.
Lauderdale County Schools: We are waiting for a call back.
Florence City Schools has their school bus routes posted online at http://www.florencek12.org/New_Website/Departments/Transportation/index.html. The district has the bus routes listed for each school.
Lawrence County Schools: We are waiting for a call back.
Limestone County Schools: We are waiting for a call back.
Athens City Schools is changing to a new bus stop system for the school year. Students will be notified of their bus stop and location shortly before school starts. The school buses will be seperated by grade levels. Parents and students can contact the Transportation Department for further information, https://www.acs-k12.org/Page/1930.
Lincoln County Schools: We are waiting for a call back.
Fayetteville City Schools: We are waiting for a call back.
Madison County Schools bus routes are expected to be similiar to what they were last school year. The students should already be informed of what bus they are assigned to through their school. The district only made some minor changes to bus riders in the Sparkman High School area.
Madison City Schools asks students be at their designated bus stop five minutes before the scheduled pick up time. The district provides a bus route lookup for students to know what their bus route is, http://data.madisoncity.k12.al.us/zoning/BusRoute_Lookup.asp.
Marshall County School asks parents contact their Transportation Office at 256-582-6499 to find out what your students bus is, http://www.marshallk12.org/departments/transportation.
Albertville City Schools: We are waiting for a call back.
Arab City Schools: We are waiting for a call back.
Boaz City Schools: We are waiting for a call back.
Guntersville City Schools expect their routes to be the same as last year. The Transportation Department provides a spreadsheet list to all schools which lists what buses students are assigned to. While that information is not made public, parents are encouraged to call the school their student attends to find out what bus they are assigned to.
Morgan County Schools: We are waiting for a call back.
Decatur City Schools plan to have their updated school bus routes posted at the beginning of August. https://www.dcs.edu/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=795989&type=d&pREC_ID=1188543.
Hartselle City Schools is working to add three new school bus routes to the existing route plan. The updates school bus routes should be avaiable online by early next week. https://www.hartselletigers.org/domain/738.