CALL 6: New Washington Township school bus policy impacts divorced parents

Posted at 7:59 PM, Aug 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-03 20:09:26-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- A new school bus transportation policy is angering families in Washington Township who say it puts divorced parents at a disadvantage.

The district will no longer allow students to be picked up and dropped off at different locations throughout the week, which impacts divorced parents who split their weeks as well as working parents with inconsistent or inflexible schedules.

Previously, MSD of Washington Township allowed more than one pick-up or drop-off location.

The new policy, in place for the 2017-2018 school year which began Wednesday, allows a student's pick-up location in the morning to be different than the afternoon drop-off.

However, the morning pick-up must be the same Monday through Friday and the afternoon drop-off must be the same Monday through Friday, according to district spokesperson Ellen Rogers.

Call 6 Investigates spoke with three divorced parents who split their weeks, and say the new policy was a shock.

Polly Westcott, a psychologist in Carmel, has to move clients and leave work early to pick up her three kids because of the new policy.

Since she and her husband divorced in 2015, MSD of Washington Township Westcott accommodated their family’s custody schedule.

“The first half of the week my ex-husband has the kids, and the second half of the week, I do,” said Westcott. “They worked with us. The kids have always had two different buses to go to the two homes.  "

But not anymore.

Westcott said she discovered the change when checking her children’s schedules online a few days before school started.

“I was surprised me and my ex-husband have set up our schedules according to using the transportation for the children,” said Westcott. “Both of us work full time. There's a lot of coordination with that, and with divorced couples it's a challenge anyway."

Westcott said the policy is hard on divorced parents living in the district, as well as parents with inflexible work schedules.

She said while she was able to adjust her schedule, other families may not be able to.

“It impacts families who have to punch a clock,” said Westcott.  “I’ve had to cancel patients at the end of the day, so I can be there to pick them up.”

Exes Rob Ventura and Ashley Lockwood also told Call 6 Investigates the new policy has thrown a huge wrench into their family’s plans to get the children to and from school.

Both Ventura, Lockwood and Westcott said they did not find out about the new policy until a few days before school started, which was August 2.

District spokesperson Ellen Rogers said the practice was changed “to improve safety” for students and families.

“Initial notice of this change in practice went to families in May before school was out,” said Rogers in a statement to RTV6. “Since that time there have been multiple reminders through numerous communication methods including information available in the parent portal of our student information system which has been accessible since June 9th. In addition, information was available during the school registration process.”

Rogers said designated daycare locations are also allowed as pick-up or drop-off locations.
Call 6 Investigates requested an on camera interview with the district, but no one was provided to speak on the issue.

It appears the bus transportation policy change was not voted on by the school board.

“The change was discussed with the Superintendent, Cabinet level administrators, as well as transportation department personnel,” said Rogers. 

Rogers said they were not made aware of any concerns throughout the summer.

“Since Monday we have learned of several parents expressing concerns,” said Rogers. “Again, the former practice of allowing more than one pick up location and more than one drop off location, was changed to improve safety for our students and families.”

Parents Call 6 Investigates spoke with say they’ve had a hard time getting through to anyone at the transportation department to express their concerns.

"I'd like them to reconsider the decision because i don't think they've considered the impact on the families and also the children," said Westcott. “Divorced kids are already susceptible to stress and now they have to deal with a new change.”   

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