Oahu school bus pilot project enrollment has been slow

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Aug 02 2013 01:48:27 PM HST

A system to track school bus use and keep costs under control is in place, but more students need to register for the bus before the new school year starts.

HONOLULU -

Get on board.  It's the Department of Education's answer to a runaway bus system that, for year, was costing taxpayers dearly and forced cuts in service.

Now, after success with a pilot project on the Big Island, school officials are giving it a try with some 30 schools in the Pearl City and Waipahu areas.

But, in order to get the bus rolling, families need to get their children registered before school starts on Monday.

"Make sure your children are registered," said DOE Facilities Deputy Superintendent Ray L'Heureux.  "As you can imagine, with this many moving parts, it needs the right data and that data in this instance takes the form of children registering for the bus.  If they don't, then we really don't know what capacity we need."

L'Heureux estimates that about 3,500 students will be affected by the new system.

At Aiea Elementary School, the principal was preparing for a meet-and-greet with families in an effort to boost registration.

"This year, it is lower than last year," said Principal Kate O'Malley.  "We are not sure why we are working with the bus company."

The new system will allow the DOE to track actual use of the school buses.  The test project on the Big Island allowed school officials to work out the bugs on new GPS equipment.

It was exactly a year ago that the DOE cut 100 school bus routes because of runaway costs.

Families were forced to find alternate ways to get their children to school.  And the city did what it could to add extra buses to ease overcrowding since families had little notice.

The DOE also changed criteria for who was eligible for bus service.  O'Malley worries for her sixth-graders, who face what she believes is one of the most dangerous walks to school.

"They have to walk around the stadium next to 6-to-8-lanes of highway so if I were a parent I would be nervous," said O'Malley.

O'Malley hopes the system can be tweaked for safety's sake.  School officials are crossing their fingers that this new school year will get off to a better start.

Once this pilot gets underway, the DOE expects to expand it islandwide and then statewide.

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