EPIC grapples with transportation issues

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Eden Prairie Schools’ EPIC summer program has been the subject of a series of complaints in recent weeks detailing parent transportation issues.

The Eden Prairie Moms Facebook group has received several messages from concerned parents about their children getting on buses when they’re not supposed to, and vice versa.

Lauren Eland has shared the story of her 6-year-old son being wrongly placed on a bus when he should have stayed in school for Eagle Zone. He then drove for an hour before taking him back to school. Eland said she went to school to check on him, and he was very confused and scared by what happened.

EPLN has reached out to other parents who describe issues similar to Eland’s story. Most of them share similar themes of confusion around taking care of children and checking that they are going to the right place.

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Probably the most alarming story that has been shared concerns another 6-year-old boy who was dropped off at home without his parents being there. Luckily his father came home for lunch and the boy was safe, but it highlights the dangers of a single child’s carrying instructions being confused.

Most of the problems seem to stem from a new initiative at Oak Point Elementary. This site has 700 to 800 students present almost every day 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 at Eden Prairie Schools, said the transportation option has been made available to increase parent 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 every child interested in our programs to be able to participate, and offering flexible transportation is one way to break down barriers.

Unfortunately, this flexibility seemed to introduce serious logistical problems. Bormann said communication between departments is a major contributor to these issues.

Since many of these concerns have been raised, Bormann said many new policies have been put in place to try to ensure children are where they are meant to be.

“We added multiple layers to confirm transition plans,” Bormann said. “We have also created a new communication process between our transport departments.

Also, parents are required to give the program more notice if there will be a schedule change so staff have time to respond. The end goal for this will be to get everyone involved on the same page with where the kids should be going.

However, according to Eland, the district has not publicly acknowledged the issues, jeopardizing community confidence in the EPIC program.

“I’m disappointed that there was no acknowledgment or apology from the administration,” Eland said. “I’m all about acknowledging if there’s a problem and moving forward with how to fix it. This is clearly a problem that must not happen again. People say on Facebook that they won’t send their children next year.

Eland expressed concern that without a more concrete statement from the district, many parents might cancel the program altogether, which she feels would be a shame.

“My son loves EPIC,” she said. “We know that teachers and staff care deeply about children’s safety and want the best for them.”

Bormann said he contacted many parents individually to discuss their concerns. However, to date, the district has not sent a public communication to EPIC parents acknowledging the challenges the program has faced and detailing the steps they are taking to address them.

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