Several students sat on the floor while riding this St. Mary’s County Public Schools’ bus. Submitted Photo

Mechanicsville, MD – According to a parent whose child attends Margaret Brent Middle School (MBMS) in St. Mary’s County, several children traveling in a bus that broke down Thursday, Oct. 4 were put at risk when they were transferred to another bus. The parent told that the other bus, which was already occupied, picked up the students riding the broken-down bus. the parent, who has asked that her name not be divulged, stated that due to the overcrowded conditions, four children had to sit on the floor of the moving vehicle. When she learned of the situation from her daughter, the parent called MBMS and was referred to St. Mary’s County Public Schools’ (SMCPS) Transportation Department. Department officials told the parent they were unaware of the incident. The parent said she has since filed a written complaint with the school system regarding the incident. “My concern is safety,” she said.

“If kids were sitting on the floor, it was by choice,” SMCPS Transportation Director Jeff Thompson told Thompson explained that it is not uncommon for regular route buses to have to travel with double the normal number of riders. Each of SMCPS’ 275 buses have a capacity of 72 riders. “Buses do break down occasionally,” said Thompson, who added that most of the school system’s buses are provided by contractors. He also pointed out that school bus operators are required to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and those drivers “are in high demand. There’s a bus driver shortage here in St. Mary’s and all over Maryland,” said Thompson.

Approximately 95 percent of the buses transporting SMCPS students are equipped with cameras so that school officials can review incidents such as the one that occurred Oct. 4. The county’s school bus transportation service is a daily struggle with logistics, Thompson indicated. “There are a lot of moving parts and a lot of moving pieces,” said Thompson.

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