MILWAUKEE — When the school bell rings, students are supposed to be in class, but for one Milwaukee girl, being tardy was out of her control.
Denise Cunningham makes sure her daughter, Ja'Kira Watkins, gets to the bus stop on time. So far this school year, they have spent a lot of time waiting.
"We used to bring chairs. We would bring chairs outside, folding chairs, and sit right outside to watch for the bus," Cunningham said.
Watkins is in third grade at Milwaukee Spanish Immersion School where the school day starts at 8:45 a.m.
Cunningham says on most days, her daughter has been late.
Watkins says she's been missing free breakfast and class time.
"It makes me feel like, frustrated 'cause I have to get my work done and I don't want to get behind on my work," Watkins said.
Cunningham says she called the bus service, Lakeside Bus Company, her daughter's school and the Milwaukee Public School District (MPS).
"It makes me furious, at this point, that I had to go through these lengths to get my daughter to school on time," Cunningham said.
Still, the bus was late.
Cunningham says the arrival times varied, but sometimes the bus arrived up to 25 minutes late. Cunningham rearranged her work schedule to stay with her daughter at the bus stop because she didn't want her standing there alone. She says she's worried about houses near the bus stop.
"There's a registered sex offender in the upper unit," Cunningham said as she pointed at one home in the area.
Contact 6 waited one morning. The bus arrived 14 minutes late. Cunningham says the bus didn't arrive at school until 8:56 a.m. — 11 minutes late.
Contact 6 reached out to Lakeside Bus Company, which thanked Contact 6 for bringing the issue to their attention. In an email they wrote:
"We checked our GPS records for pick-up and drop-off times at the Spanish Immersion Schools and also spoke with our local dispatch team. It appears that, due to heavy traffic, the route does need to be adjusted, which requires the approval of Milwaukee Public Schools. We asked MPS for approval to do so this morning."
Contact 6 also reached out to MPS. An MPS spokesperson told Contact 6 in email:
"We checked into the situation, and there was an adjustment made to the route on Nov. 15. Since the family continued to have concerns, we also authorized a change in pickup time last week from 8:10 a.m. to 8 a.m.to ensure their daughter arrives at school on time. Because of the number of students and families involved, it often can take several days for a time change to go into effect once it has been authorized. The parents in this situation followed the appropriate process by contacting the school and the bus company with their concerns. We encourage any family with questions or concerns about their child’s bus route to communicate with their school and bus company
MPS manages the transportation of more than 50,000 students each day in the Milwaukee area, and we work closely with our bus vendors to ensure students arrive at school safely and on time. As traffic, changes in student enrollment and other factors affect bus routes throughout the school year, we monitor and make adjustments to bus routes and schedules as needed."
A couple weeks later, Contact 6 met up with Cunningham and her daughter.
"Things have gotten a lot better," Cunningham said.
When Contact 6 was there, the bus arrived on schedule -- to the minute.
"She's getting to school on time," Cunningham said.
Contact 6 also checked on Watkins' arrival at Milwaukee Spanish Immersion School and her bus was in front of the school at 8:45 a.m.
This gave Watkins enough time to eat free breakfast and get to class on time.
"We're most glad that you guys could help. Really appreciate you. You work so hard," Cunningham told Contact 6.
If you have a similar issue with your child's bus route, you're encouraged to contact both the bus company and your child's school to get the problem resolved. The district and the company both need to be aware of the issue to help get it resolved.