An increase in magnet programs has resulted in a growing demand for transportation at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and with the district-wide student population increasing regularly and bus driver vacancies occurring annually, the district has been exploring new ways to consolidate its transportation needs.
One such project was approved during a December 2022 Board of Education meeting: 44 new “express stops” for identified full and partial magnet high schools during the 2023-2024 school year.
The express stops are meant to relieve the demand of door-to-door bus pickup by assigning magnet students a designated stop at their nearest high school, so they can then be transported to their respective magnet.
According to the CMS Transportation Services website, the express stops are meant to “[improve] on-time arrival, access and service efficiencies with fewer drivers.”
CMS Transportation assured parents that express stops were an “alternative mode to increase access, increase system efficiencies, and improve the student experience with a minimal impact on families.”
Since the district implemented the express stops in August to kick off the new school year, however, they have become a point of contention and confusion in the community, as pointed out by District 1 CMS Board of Education rep Melissa Easley during a meeting on Tuesday.
A private Facebook group called Save Our Stops reveals a litany of complaints about the new stops, with CMS parents, teachers and community members expressing their frustrations with the early roll-out.
Created in January of this year with a goal “to gather ideas and creative solutions so we can have a cohesive message to CMS,” the group gives a glimpse at the confusion and frustration felt by many in the district.
The group’s About page even floats the idea that the goal of the express stops could be to undermine magnet schools more broadly.
“Now is the time to speak out about how unsafe and completely inefficient this is—unless their goal is to gut the magnet program of students,” the group’s ‘About’ page states. “(After 7 years with CMS this feels like they’re trying to put the final nail in the coffin for the magnets.)”
As members of the group point out, many express stops are positioned across busy streets more than 3 miles away from some students’ homes, making it difficult and potentially dangerous to walk or ride their bikes to the designated stop.
Some parents stress the impact of express stops on working parents, those without cars and the disproportionate impacts of schools with a large number of minorities.
One parent said he didn’t send his child to their chosen magnet school because he couldn’t figure out how to pick her up at the end of the day due to his work schedule.
Although parents can receive notifications regarding their express stops via the Here Comes the Bus app, one parent in the Save Our Stops group claimed that her child’s afternoon bus switched the order of two stops, causing her student to arrive at their stop 10 minutes late.
She said nothing had been communicated to parents and the app still reflected the correct, original schedule.
“It’s only ten minutes, but I know some parents are rearranging work schedules (or other kids’ bus or pickup schedules) to manage these pickup times,” she said in the post. “I feel like it’s not a big ask to stick to the schedule you’ve set, or be clear about changes.”
During Tuesday’s CMS Board of Education meeting, Ingrid Hoover Hicks, a CMS parent, spoke up against the express stops.
“I do see the magnet programs as an opportunity for students in an underdeveloped community like mine,” Hicks said. However, she continued, “The express bus stops are not fair. It’s not equitable. It is a burden for students, it’s a burden for students’ parents.”
Hicks pointed out that many parents do not have the money to get their students to the bus stops, with some Save Our Stop group members having to rely on daily Uber rides and other paid transportation services to get their kids to the stop.
“I would like to see us to be more creative and not to look to other school boards as examples but for CMS to lead.”
Easley, the only board member to acknowledge parents’ concerns with the express stops at Tuesday’s meeting, has reportedly reached out to some of the parents in Save Our Stops to explain that she is aware of their concerns and is in communication with Transportation Services to try to work out any issues.
Parents can request a change in their assigned express stop by filling out an Alternate Stop Request Form.
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