Columbia County student worried about possible overcrowded buses

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News 12 at 11 O'clock / Monday, August 25, 2014


COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW) -- "I standup probably every day," said McKenzie Bernard, a student-athlete at Lakeside Middle School.

On the field and on the way home, McKenzie Bernard knows her exact spot on the bus.

"Standing up in seat four by the window," she said.

The softball player snapped pictures of overcrowding on her school bus on her phone.

"So, I could have evidence to complain about this bus, because there's too many people on it," McKenzie said,

The photos show students standing up in the aisle and leaning on the windows. An obvious problem for parents, an obvious danger for students.

News 12 asked, "What was your first thought when you saw those pictures?" and mother, Shannon Bernard responded, "Safety, if anything was to happen to the bus, those kids would go flying."

As soon as Shannon got her daughters pictures through text, her mind starting racing.

"I've actually gone on and watched videos of bus crashes, it scares me even more," she said.

Shannon's worried that if this happens to her daughter's bus, those extra students standing up could be in serious danger.

Georgia law states this school bus can carry up to 66 kids at one time, but as those numbers continue to rise, students are required to stand up, leaning against the windows, and a handful are left standing up and down these school bus aisles.

"Once we know that that is happening, we start planning to relieve that bus of some students," said Dewayne Porter with Columbia County Schools Transportation Department.

Of course, in Columbia County, it's all about growth this year. When bus drivers resign or retire, Dewayne Porter has the task of filling the void to avoid over-crowding on his buses.

"When we need X amount of people and we have fewer than that, then that becomes the problem and we have to shift those students to other buses," he said.

Georgia law lets them. Remember the max is 66 but there are exceptions, like at the beginning of the school year when districts are still working out the kinks. In that case, buses like McKenzie's can hold up to 79 kids.

"They should have two loads instead of one big load," said McKenzie.

Which is what district leaders tell News 12 they're working on getting.

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