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Fiesta Bus Fiasco

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Glenwood Prom-goers Left Waiting For Transportation

By Joe Foreman, Editor

They were all dressed up with a place to go. They just didn’t have the transportation to get there.

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Approximately 50 Glenwood Community High School students and their prom dates were forced to spend nearly two hours in the GCHS parking lot Saturday night waiting for an “Omaha Fiesta” bus to take them to Council Bluffs so they could join their classmates at the junior-senior prom.

Their transportation, a reconfigured school bus, arrived at 9:55 p.m. The students quickly climbed aboard and filled the bus well over its advertised capacity of 35-40 people. Many of the students were standing elbow-to-elbow as the bus pulled away from the GCHS lot at 10 p.m. They arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn in Council Bluffs around 10:30 p.m., two hours after the first bus-load of students had been dropped off at the prom.

Three Fiesta buses were on hand to transport students from the high school’s “Grand March,” which began at 7:30 p.m. in the GCHS auditorium, to the site of the prom dance in Council Bluffs. The first three buses (carrying approximately 140-150 students) left the school between 8 p.m. and 8:15. The buses returned an hour later to take three more loads, but more than 50 student still needed a ride. Some of the remaining students stuck it out for the last departure, while others gave up and left the school.

GCHS faculty member and prom co-sponsor Paige Sowers said the transportation problem was a combination of the buses not accommodating as many students as advertised and a higher-than-anticipated turnout for prom.

“I was told that I could fit 140 kids on the (three) buses,” Sowers said. “I thought everybody would be there by 9:30 at the latest.”

Sowers and GCHS Principal Kerry Newman both said the school doesn’t require students to register for prom in advance, unless they’re an underclassman or a date from out of town.

“They (prom sponsors) don’t collect the number of kids that are coming to prom,” Newman said. “They send out invitations to all the juniors and seniors. They really didn’t do a count. We never have.”

Sowers said actual attendance for the prom, based on sign-in sheets for the buses, exceeded 350 people.

“We never had that many before that I know of,” she said.

Sowers said she takes sole responsibility for the decision to use the Fiesta buses. She said the intention was to create a festive atmosphere for the kids.

“I feel terrible for those kids that were on the later buses. I’d love to be able to make it up to them some how,” Sowers said. “I feel terrible for the headache it has caused Kerry (Newman) and Lori Carter (co-sponsor). I was the one that found the buses. I had some people giving me recommendations, but this was my mistake, I don’t want someone else being blamed.

“The intention was to have fun. We thought they’d be more fun for the kids than just your typical school bus. I knew the seating was different, they had cool lights and a sound system.”

In addition to the lights and sound system, two of the buses were equipped with “adult entertainment” poles. Based on information provided on the Omaha Fiesta Bus website, its vehicles are used primarily for bar hopping, bachelor parties and other adult-oriented social events. Sowers said she learned that some of the buses would be equipped with the dance poles on Friday, the day before prom.

“I called and asked them if they could be removed and they told me no,” she said.

Newman said she, too, was unaware of what the buses were normally utilized for, noting that she was of the understanding that motorcoaches were being chartered.

“I wish I would have been aware of all of that,” Newman said. “My understanding from my sponsors was that we were having charter buses,” Newman said. “Obviously, if we knew they were school buses, we could have lined up our own drivers and had them up there.”

Newman said she was chaperoning the dance when she learned that some students were standing on the buses while being transported from the school to Council Bluffs.

“When we found out they had kids standing, we said, ‘No, we can’t do that,’” Newman said. “Once we found out about things that were going on that were not safe, we put an end to it.”

To eliminate transportation problems and potential safety issues for the return trip, two school district activity buses were sent to Council Bluffs to assist in bringing the students back to Glenwood.

“Everybody did leave there by 12:18, and the music kept playing until then,” Newman said.

Newman said the transportation problem was one glitch in an otherwise successful and enjoyable prom night that included a Grand March in the auditorium and an after-prom back at the school after everyone had returned back to Glenwood from the dance.

“The positive calls and e-mails I’ve received today (Monday) outnumber the negative ones,” she said.