SARATOGA SPRINGS — Some parents in Saratoga Springs say school buses for Vista Heights Middle School are overcrowded, forcing some kids to sit on the floor, and that’s not safe.
The Alpine School District said it is trying to adjust the routes to fix the overcrowding, but it doesn’t help that some students aren’t taking their assigned buses.
The students live in Harvest Hills and all are bused to Vista Heights Middle School. There are six buses in the neighborhood, but parents say that is not enough and they are worried about safety.
“They are extremely overcrowded, and we have kids sitting on the floor,” parent Sherian Bushman said.
And one of those kids sitting on the floor is Bushman's 13-year-old. “My daughter sat on the floor and rode between the driver and the door,” she said.
For the students who aren't on the floor, they are sitting three to a seat.
“They know how many kids live here, they have a count of the number of kids who go to the school and all those kids need a seat,” Bushman said.
“My son is 5 feet 11 inches and my daughter is 5 feet 6 inches, so to put three kids to a seat it is way overcrowded for them,” said parent Kathy Hale.
The Alpine School District says it is trying to deal with a surge in enrollment from the neighborhood.
“As the first day of school rolled around, we had 75 percent growth instead of 50 (percent), said Kimberly Bird, spokeswoman for the Alpine School District.
Bird said that students switching buses to find room is complicating efforts to evaluate where to make route adjustments.
“What is happening is that kids are moving from stop to stop to pick and choose which bus they get on and that is causing additional overcrowding of buses,” Bird said.
“The total number of middle school students per bus optimally falls in the range of 65-75 (if there were three per seat, the bus would accommodate 83 — this is done rarely and only with elementary kids)," said district spokesman John Patten in a written statement Thursday.
Still, parents believe it’s clear that another bus is needed right now. They are especially worried since the route takes the busy Redwood Road, that even a minor accident could seriously injure a student.
“I don't think they are safe,” Bushman said. “I don't think they are being transported safely, and I don't think they should drive the bus if there are kids on the floor.”
District officials say bus drivers are required to make sure that every student has a seat before they start moving, but the parents say the photos show that is not happening and hope more is done to ensure their children are safe while on the school bus.
“Right now, (the) transportation (department) is creating more bus stops so that fewer kids load at each stop. That way a driver can be assigned a more accurate and manageable load to transport,” Patten said. “Staff will work overtime so that all the routes are accurately adjusted by Monday.”
Contributing: Randall Jeppesen