By Sally Voth - firstname.lastname@example.org
Parents of some Shenandoah County Public Schools' students are protesting conditions on their children's buses.
Mt. Jackson resident Brandi Dysart started a Facebook page called "Change for Shenandoah County School Transportation" after realizing some students were having to stand in the aisle, and others were hanging over the seats into the aisle.
The Facebook group had more than 300 members as of Tuesday afternoon.
Dysart has four children, two of whom are in school. She has a third-grader at Ashby Lee Elementary and a sixth-grade student at North Fork Middle School. She said her children had been sharing bus stories for a couple years, but she thought they'd been exaggerating.
"As a parent, you're like, 'Just ride the bus, it can't be that bad,'" Dysart said.
But, when they told her some kids were standing up on the bus because there weren't enough seats, "it's kind of upsetting," she said.
Dysart said she has been in frequent communication with the schools' transportation supervisor Martin Quigley.
"He told me they only stood the first week of school, and now they all have a seat," she said. "I think the public in general would be outraged that children are standing on the buses. There are no federal regulations as to how many children can sit on the bus."
Besides the Facebook page, Dysart said she is hoping to get parents together to address the school board at its Oct. 11 meeting.
In a letter to the editor of the Daily earlier this week, Dysart also pointed out children have gotten bigger in recent years, and often carry heavy school bags as well as instruments on the buses.
Another concerned mom, Sherri Braithwaite of Quicksburg, has taken to driving her children to school herself. She also has a third-grader at Ashby Lee and a sixth-grader at North Fork.
"I can drive my children, but it's not about that," Braithwaite said Tuesday. "A lot of parents aren't able to drive their children and pick them up."
Besides children standing up, she has been told there are three or four children per seat in some cases.
"We've had reports from parents of children as young as 5 years old who were told to stand up on the school bus," she said.
Braithwaite also said she's considered having her children ride the bus so they can photograph the traveling conditions.
In addition to the potential danger to standing children if the bus has to slam on the brakes or is in an accident, Braithwaite said she worries about what would happen if the bus needs to be quickly evacuated.
"Something like that's going to take twice as long," she said.
Calls to Quigley and Superintendent Keith Rowland weren't immediately returned on Tuesday.