Parents at Mary McLeod Bethune Charter School have been frustrated for weeks with the school’s unpredictable bus service. Now, the school says, a bus driver left several children at the scene of an accident Monday.
Like most charter schools, Bethune contracts its bus service out to a private company. Its first contractor, Kids First Transportation, abruptly cancelled its contract about a month into the school year because it didn’t have the right insurance. Bethune then hired a second company - BCH services Group. But BCH has been struggling to find enough drivers - and that’s created problems.
Now, WWNO has learned that a BCH bus was in an accident on Monday with several students on board. The school says no students were injured. A spokeswoman for Bethune, Cheron Brylski, said the driver pulled the kids off the bus, "asked a neighbor in the area to watch them and then drove off." It is not clear whether the driver knew the neighbor.
In an emailed statement attributed to Senior Safety & External Affairs Officer Ulyses Collins, NOLA Public Schools (NOLA-PS) said the district is aware of the incident, and that they have been in contact with Bethune and BCH.
"As reported to NOLA-PS by multiple parties, the children on the bus were not left alone, a representative from the school bus company was called to the scene by the school bus driver and remained at the scene until all the children on-board were picked up. The safety of our students remains a top priority for NOLA-PS. We will continue to monitor the situation," the statement reads.
The details surrounding exactly what happened are unclear, as the district's take and the school spokeswoman's description of events seem to be in conflict. But, Brylski said Bethune's principal Mary Haynes-Smith demanded the BCH employee no longer drive Bethune students.
"Our principal immediately went to the scene and has since demanded that this driver not be allowed to serve our routes any longer," Brylski wrote in an email.
Brylski said the school is planning to maintain its contract with BCH, despite the issues.
"Principal Smith continues to hold the company to very high accountability," she wrote, and referred WWNO to BCH for further comment.
The owner of BCH Services Group, Bobby Hardrick, could not immediately be reached for comment.
A parent speaking annonymously to protect her childrens' privacy says she and many other parents are finding their own transportation because they do not trust the bus service the school provides.