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Superintendent of Muncie Schools addresses transportation issues

MUNCIE, Ind. – Muncie Community Schools resumed classes Monday after starting the school year off with busing missteps that caused two days of closures. The district said though things aren't perfect, Monday went as any first day would.

The issues come as the district faces the possibility of running out of money this fall. A new bus company selected this year, Auxillio, is supposed to save the district $1.4 million. On the first day of school last Wednesday, parents complained of late buses, buses not showing up and an inability to get answers. The district closed school while it worked throughout the weekend with transportation staff to fix the issues.

Administrator Assistance, the district's emergency manager, said the Indiana Department of Education's Director of Transportation spent the day in Muncie. According to a news release from Administrator Assistance, Michael LaRocco stated, "I would see today as a normal start to a school year considering all the changes that have taken place. Not perfect, but the kids arrived at school and back home safely."

Monday, some parents said though some buses were late things ran better, while others remained frustrated.

"I mean it wasn't as bad as the first day but it was still bad," said Jordan Murphy, an 8th grade student.

Murphy said his bus was late enough his mother had to take him to school.

"Frustration. Anger. That's not what we were told was gonna be happening, it's not been fixed," his mother, Jolene Murphy, said.

When FOX59 visited, a spokesperson for Auxillio said "these people work really hard and were in all weekend." When we called True Consultants, the routing coordinator, we were referred back to the school district.

The district said glitches are a normal part of the start of school for any school district, and asked for patience during the first few weeks as drivers learn the roadways, times, students, families and traffic patterns.

"It's a pretty normal first day of school. There's room for improvement obviously but you know we'll get there," MCS Superintendent Dr. Steven Baule said.

Baule said they'll continue refining routes. He points to changing bus companies, closing three elementary schools, changing enrollment districts and staggering start times.

"In a perfect world you wouldn't do all of those things at once, but unfortunately given our fiscal situation we've kind of had to try to be as efficient as possible," Baule said.

When asked why routes weren't hammered out before the start of the school year, Baule said in part because the bus company was selected before deciding to close the three elementary schools routes. He said though routes were first drafted in June, there were some issues where they had to make changes to special education.

He also said because of the district's fairly transient population, there were address changes so routes put together in June were not necessarily accurate at the start of the year.

Baule said in some cases, they did dry runs before the first day, but not in all.

"And one of the reasons is because of our financial status. My understanding is there was some dragging of the feet of the financial people who were backing the bus company from the stand point it took them a little bit longer than anticipated to get buses on site," he said.

Baule said since last week, they've worked to make sure routes are accurate, needs of special education students are addressed and dry runs are completed.

Some parents were understanding of the district Monday.

"I'm just keeping up the hopes that we're getting back on track," Nicolle Courtney said.

"I think the district is handling it as best as they can, I understand," Robert Scaife said.

Baule said the school board will have to decide whether to make the days up at a later date or seek a waiver from the state.