Local: Education

Arlington bus driver gets lost, arrives an hour late

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Local,Virginia,Education,Transportation,Taylor Holland

Even Arlington County parents whose children received bus vouchers this year are encountering transportation problems.

A bus driver transporting children to Glebe Elementary School on Tuesday, the children's first day of class, arrived nearly an hour late after taking a wrong turn at the intersection of Washington Boulevard and North Kirkwood Road.

Alyson Fliakis, whose first-grade daughter, Zoe, boarded Bus 524 about 8:25 a.m., said she watched Zoe board and then went over to the school to meet her. When she arrived, however, school officials told her Zoe's bus had yet to arrive.

The bus pulled up to Glebe about 9:45 a.m., Fliakis said, and as the children exited the bus, she noticed they were all drenched in sweat.

"There's no air conditioning, and all of the windows were up," she said. "The kids were OK, a little scared, but what stood out is how sweaty they all were."

Because the bus driver, who had made a successful run to Barrett Elementary School earlier in the morning, is new to Arlington, a "cluster leader," a bus driven by an experienced driver, followed her on her route, said Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia.

When the experienced driver saw the other bus take a wrong turn, he radioed her to tell her to turn around. He then got caught at a red light, and the other bus drove off, Bellavia said.

The new driver then drove towards Barrett Elementary to regain her bearings, Bellavia said, before eventually meeting up with the other bus, who led her to Glebe. Arlington's school buses do not have GPS devices in them.

"All I knew the whole time was that the kids were on a bus somewhere," Fliakis said. "Nobody seemed to have a good idea of where."

Fliakis said she was pleased that Zoe was awarded a bus voucher this year, part of a new school system policy to limit the number of students on buses, but remains unhappy with the way officials have handled transportation changes.

"I get what they're trying to do, but they're doing it in an awful way," she said. "I assumed we were on the way up after all these changes, but it's been the complete opposite. That's just amazing to me."

The new driver will keep her route, but a cluster leader will continue to follow her to prevent similar incidents from happening again, Bellavia said.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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