Hours before the first bells ring, parents and their kids are getting ready.
“I have all of my supplies, my backpack, my lunch box, everything, I think I’m ready,” Madison Dassa of Wellington said.
“They’ve been anxious for the past couple weeks,” Steven Dassa said. “They know its coming, they know they have to go to sleep a little bit earlier but they're definitely ready."
Just like the Dassa family, the Palm Beach County School District is hoping for a smooth start to the year. This summer it’s been sorting through its own issues with school bus cameras.
It’s a problem exposed by parents in Boca Raton, "She said there's no video,” Jack Money said; to parents in Wellington.
"Nobody can tell me how my son got a puncture wound on his head,” Victoria Valderama said. “How can you not have cameras working when you have small children on your bus?"
It took Consumer Watchdog Jenn Strathman a year of digging to find out how often the cameras don’t record critical moments on a bus.
Years after spending your tax dollars on these cameras the district changed its policies and finally began inspecting them to make sure they work. But when asked about maintenance records, the district wouldn’t give it to us for security reasons.
Countering road block after road block, Jenn pushed harder and the district finally released a month’s worth of records.
In that month (November) only about 2 percent of the buses had problems but the district admits that the number is typically around 10 percent.
We couldn’t independently verify what the real numbers are because the district removed key information like bus and work order numbers from the maintenance logs, making it difficult to track trends with the bus cameras.
But a week before the start of the 2016-2017 school year superintendent Dr. Robert Avossa says the problem is improving with only one percent of cameras broken.
"They went bus by bus, security cameras, they checked air conditioning, they've worked really hard,” Avossa said. “So we're really in a much different place.”
Parents say the real test will come once school begins.
WPTV has now learned that despite what the district told us last week, that parents would be able to request video and that video recordings would be treated as a student record, the district is back tracking.
The Chief of Police now says it will only release redacted video if and only if the video becomes part of a legal proceeding and there will be a charge. We have several follow up questions about the change and will let you know when we hear back.