Parents, administrators see improvement in La Crosse Schools’ bus routes

Changes to routes improve bus times

It’s been nearly six weeks since problems with First Student bus company forced changes in the routing patterns for the La Crosse School District.

Last month we shared the story of Lorie Henkel and her 9-year-old son David.
During the first few days of school, busing for her child was inconsistent with delays.
With changes by the school district and First Student, busing problems have dramatically improved.

Henkel still vividly remembers not seeing her child on the bus during the first week of school.

“It’s a sickening feeling,” said Henkel. “You don’t know where your child’s at. You start imagining the worst. David didn’t get off the bus. Had to play a bunch of phone tag to figure out what the bus company did with David. The first day, while I’m trying to find where David is at, they kept me on hold for 35 minutes. Nobody ever got back on the phone.”

With changes implemented between the school district and First Student, parents and administration have seen a dramatic improvement.

“I think there’s some fine tuning,” said Henkel. “But I think its improved 100 percent.”

“What we’ve heard from people is at least what we’re seeing at this particular point is a degree of consistency that we can pretty much depend on.” said Randy Nelson, superintendent of the La Crosse School District.

The biggest change to the busing system is going back to using routes used the previous year.
First Student released a statement on Oct. 2nd stating it intends to complete this implementation by the end of October.
According to Nelson, those changes now won’t be complete until early November, but says many factors go into the final plan.

“We’re taking a look at every one of them, trying to see if we haven’t missed students on those, and make sure routes are going to be working out from a time perspective,” said Nelson. “We won’t have students on buses too long, and that pretty much reflected what our routes were last year, which is part of what our intent is.”

Nelson says they are using all means necessary, including the help of other bus companies and the Holmen School District, to fulfill their busing needs for after-school activities, such as sporting events.

“Some of the very bus route people who would be taking students home at the end of the day might also be interested in riding one of those bus routes, said Nelson. “So there weren’t at times really enough drivers to go around and handle the needs that we had for our athletic activities.”

Despite the bumpy start, parents and administrators are pleased with what they’re seeing.

“Since that point, things have settled down, settled down well, and settled down the way we would expect.” said Nelson.
“I feel like there’s more communication,” said Henkel. “It’s a whole better feeling. You don’t have the wonder in the back of your mind ‘what’s going to happen today?'”

Nelson said that parents will be notified when the final busing routes will take effect.
He said we should expect to see minor tweaking of the new routes, but not problems like we saw at the beginning of this year.

News 8 did reach out to First Student for a statement on this update, but so far we have not heard back.