Eden Prairie Schools EPIC summer program has seen a raft of complaints the past few weeks detailing parents’ issues with transportation.
The Eden Prairie Moms Facebook Group has had several posts from concerned parents about their children getting on buses when they are not supposed to, and vice versa.
Lauren Eland shared the story of her 6-year-old son being incorrectly placed on a bus when he should have stayed at school for Eagle Zone. He then rode for an hour before it brought him back to school. Eland said she went to the school to check on him, and he was very confused and scared about what had happened.
EPLN has communicated with other parents who describe similar issues to Eland’s story. Most of these share similar themes of confusion revolving around picking up kids and making sure they are going to the correct place.
Probably the most alarming story that was shared involved another 6-year-old boy being dropped off at home with no parents being there. Luckily, his father came home for lunch and the boy was safe, but it highlights the dangers of even one child’s transportation instructions getting muddled.
Most of the issues seem to stem from a new initiative at Oak Point Elementary. This site has 700-800 students present most days of the week. This year, for the first time, the option to bus children from their EPIC session to the district’s Eagle Zone child care program was offered to parents. This is the only EPIC site that offers this option.
Brock Bormann, director of youth programs for Eden Prairie Schools, said the transportation option was made available to increase parents’ flexibility over the summer.
“As we continue to see record enrollment this summer, we want to continue to adapt to the needs of the community,” Bormann said. “It’s really important for us to be flexible and support families by increasing access to our programs. We want each child who is interested in our programs to be able to participate, and offering flexible transportation is one way to remove barriers.”
Unfortunately, this flexibility has seemed to introduce some serious logistical problems. Bormann said that communication between departments is a major culprit for these issues.
Since many of these concerns have been raised, Bormann said that many new policies have been put in place to try and ensure children are where they are supposed to be.
“We’ve added multiple layers to confirming transition plans,” Bormann said. “We’ve also created a new process of communication between our transportation departments.”
Additionally, parents are required to give the program more advance notice if there will be a schedule change so that staff has time to respond. The end goal for this will be to have everyone involved be on the same page with where kids should be going.
However, according to Eland, the district has not publicly acknowledged the issues, which risks the community’s trust in the EPIC program.
“I am disappointed there hasn’t been an acknowledgment and an apology from the administration,” Eland said. “I’m all about acknowledging if there’s a problem and moving forward with how to solve it. This clearly is a problem that needs to not happen again. People are saying on Facebook that they are not sending their kids next year.”
Eland expressed concern that without a more concrete statement from the district, many parents may write the program off altogether, which in her eyes would be a shame.
“My son loves EPIC,” she said. “We know the teachers and staff care deeply about the kid’s safety and want what’s best for them.”
Bormann said he has reached out to many parents individually to discuss their concerns. However, so far, the district has not sent out a public communication to EPIC parents acknowledging the challenges the program has faced and detailing steps they are taking to address it.
Update: The district has reached out to families with children in the EPIC program and shared this message.