MOUNT PLEASANT S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston County parents and their bus driver are pushing for change after the district moved their children’s bus stop out of their neighborhood and on to a major highway.
“I’m terrified. It shouldn’t be happening. I’m not even sure why this is a fight," Stacia Huger, who has a child on the bus, said. "The district should put kids safety first. Always. And, I feel like they’re putting the bus safety first.”
The decision went into effect on Tuesday for all students living off Bennett Charles Road, including those on Bobo Road, in Mount Pleasant. All students of all grade levels now have to wait in a “grassy area” off of Highway 41 instead of the stop that used to be inside their neighborhood.
Parents were informed of the change on Friday through a letter from Durham School Services.
“The stop at Bobo Road and Bennett Charles has been deemed unsafe,” the letter read. “The issue, in this location, is that there is no safe place for the bus to turn around, once it gets onto Bennett Charles Road."
But, Rickey Gathers, the bus driver, said his new ride description didn’t change the route. It just changed the stop.
“I received a ride description from my supervisor," Gathers said. " It tells me to get off 41, come down Bennett Charles, turn on Julius Robertson, turn around and go back out. Right where I was picking up kids at the beginning.”
This has parents both confused and frustrated.
“Once a child is in the ground. Sorry is not going to bring the child back,” Huger said. “Everybody knows how unsafe Highway 41 is. No good parent would be comfortable with their child standing on the highway for even thirty seconds, because an accident came happen in those seconds.”
It’s something the bus driver said he has seen.
“I witnessed an accident right out here," Gathers said. “They swerved out in the grass. The same grassy area they’re talking about letting our kids stand and wait for the bus.”
He went to say he has no problem driving down the street to pick up the kids. It’s something he’s been doing for years.
“There’s no justification behind this. None. If they’re going to act like this, I don’t want to be a part of the system, because if one of those children gets hurt out there, I don’t want to be around when it happens," Gathers said. “The people sitting behind the desk in the office need to bring their butt out here and check it out for themselves."
Charleston County School District spokesperson Andy Pruitt said the stop will be kept as is, and added that it’s been “thoroughly reviewed by both the district’s office of student transportation and the State Department of Education.”
“Based on safety assessments conducted by both the South Carolina Highway Patrol and CCSD this year, it is in the best interest of our students and the bus driver to keep the stop at its current location,” Pruitt said. “District staff will continue to review conditions at this stop and on the entire route to ensure we are making the best possible decision when it comes to the safety of the children at this specific stop and on the bus.”
Durham spokesperson Ed Flavin said the company doesn’t create the routes. That’s done by the district.