County addresses overcrowded school buses - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

County addresses overcrowded school buses

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A local community activist says a school bus in his neighborhood is dangerously overcrowded.

He claims students are standing in the aisles, sitting on the floor and sitting 3-4 to a seat.

Hamilton County Schools Transportation Supervisor Ben Coulter says the county deals with overcrowded school buses at the start of every school year.

He says they're following the law but sometimes that means putting 3 kids to a seat.

Chris Rolle contacted Channel 3 after watching more than 50 kids leave his free Avondale breakfast stop to cross the street and board the bus. The problem, he says, is when he got word than bus #383 made several more stops and picked up more children before dropping them off at school.

Rolle followed the bus last Friday with a video camera to document his claims.

"The crowd that got on that bus it fills that bus and it's just unheard of them to have 4 more stops after this stop," he said. "It was stuffed to capacity, I even saw children standing up on the bus."

Drivers are trained to tell standing students to find a seat. The county sometimes has to max out with close to 80 high-schoolers on a single bus. Capacity is 84. It might not be comfortable but it gets them to school.

"When it happens year after year after year and nobody has done anything about it, nobody has voiced an opinion about it, I don't like being the voice -- the bad guy all of the time -- but somebody has to speak for the children. They don't have a voice of their own," Rolle said.

So Chris called Coulter Monday to complain. Coulter then moved 22 kids to another bus, freeing up more room on #383.

"Sounds like the problem has been resolved and we appreciate that," Rolle said.

Only about 3.5-percent of the county's 700 buses are currently "overcrowded" and its mostly in the Ooltewah and East Ridge areas, Coulter said.

He also said he can generally get something like this fixed within a week but first he has to know about the problem.

You can call the Hamilton County School's Transportation Department at 423-209-5680.

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