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Oswego School District 308 Parents Vent Frustration Over Handling of Bus Crash, Boundary

Mar 23, 2015 10:47PM ● Published by Steven Jack

Oswego emergency personnel respond to the scene of a school bus accident near Orchard Road and Mayfield Drive Monday morning. (Submitted photo)

UPDATED: This story has been corrected to reflect the nature of Orchard Road school bus accident.

Two school bus accidents and a cut fiber optic line led to what School District 308 Superintendent Matthew Wendt called a “perfect storm” of challenges for the district Monday morning. 

Several parents unhappy with the district’s handling of one of those accidents, which occurred at Orchard Road and Caterpillar Drive, spoke out at Monday night’s School Board meeting, asking officials to devise a better system for informing parents in emergencies and reconsideration for boundaries that send their children to a school that is further away and has larger class sizes than three others closer to their homes.

That bus was bound for Boulder Hill Elementary School at 8:27 a.m. when it slid and rear-ended a car on a snow-covered Orchard Road. A few minutes before, a bus carrying seven East View Elementary School students was struck near the intersection of Wolf and Harvey roads. 

No students were injured in either accident, but the district placed automated phone calls to parents to inform them of the accidents. Monday morning’s challenges were compounded by a phone and internet outage across most of the district that lasted for several hours. Wendt said the outage was caused by a severed Comcast fiber optic line.  

The Orchard Road accident was the second in about a month at that location involving students traveling across Orchard to attend Boulder Hill Elementary. Ten students were sent to the hospital Feb. 20 after a car traveling north on Orchard slammed into a bus, sending it into a nearby field.

Parent Carrie Sheets said she found out about Monday's accident when she pulled up to the crash on her way to work. It wasn’t until she arrived at the scene that she received the automated call from the district, she said. 

“Parents need to be notified sooner than by a robocall,” she said. “There needs to be a human calling parents (in situations like these.”)

Sheets also said she talked to fellow parents who never received an automated call. 

Wendt acknowledged that the automated call system is “not perfect,” and that the administration needs to develop a crisis plan for times when the district is facing multiple simultaneous issues.

"We have to make it a priority," he said. 

Parent Kim Currer questioned why students from the Blackberry Knoll subdivision are traveling to Boulder Hill when there are three elementary schools with smaller average class sizes closer to her subdivision. According to the 2013-14 Illinois School Report Card Boulder Hill has an average class size of 25, while Fox Chase and Hunt Club are 22 and Lakewood Creek 24. The district average is 21.

“It not only concerns me, but baffles me why our kids are bused to Boulder Hill,” she said. “… Why put our kids’ safety at risk to a school that is clearly over the district’s average.”

Currer also said the district should consider Hunt Club for Blackberry Knoll students as Dual Language students are transitioned back their home schools next year.

“Please look at boundaries,” she urged.

The district’s boundaries are unlikely to change for next year, as School Board candidates have said doing so now does not leave enough time to properly include all stakeholders in the process. Large-scale boundary changes are likely for the 2016-17 school year.

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