INDIANAPOLIS — For the second day in a row MSD of Washington Township parents have dealt with major delays at the bus stop or buses just not showing up at all.
”It’s been horrible, the experience has been horrible,” Latrice Owens said. Her daughter LayMya goes to North Central High School.
Owens said buses have been late all school year so far but now it’s even worse.
”Sometimes the kids aren’t even making it to their first period classes,” Owens said.
Tuesday morning at 7:32 and Wednesday morning at 6:47 texts went out to Washington Township parents saying school buses would be delayed due to a large number of school bus drivers calling out.
Owens’ daughter’s bus is still running but showing up very late. Owens said school starts at 8:30 but the bus wasn’t there at pick up till 8:35. This has caused Owens to adjust her work schedule to make sure her daughter is at school on time, something she can’t always do.
”You can’t just always stop your work day to take your child or pick your child up from school,” said Owens.
But even dropping and picking up her daughter is chaotic. Owens said she will wait for 30 to 45 minutes sometimes and the line of cars will stretch out into the road.
Rosie Hodgen’s two kids go to Washington Township schools, too. Her middle schooler’s bus did not come at all Wednesday.
”You leave the kids at the bus stop wondering are they getting on for a bus, are they going to get to school,” she said.
Hodgens said she had to leave her job Wednesday morning to come back home and take her student to school.
Her biggest frustration is the communication, she said texts an hour before buses usually pick up don’t cut it.
”There’s no communication coming from the school corporation, we are getting extremely late arrivals of the bus or no bus at all,” Hodgen said.
MSD of Washington Township was not able to do an interview but directed us to a video message to parents posted online.
The system superintendent Nikki Woodson said a summer overhaul of routes to make the system more efficient has had the opposite effect and they’re working to fix it.
“Unfortunately, the work done prior to the start of the school year did not result in optimal efficiencies, leading to the frustration of families,” Woodson said in the video.
Whatever is going on with bus drivers calling out and bus routes not being efficient, parents want it figured out.
”I don’t want my daughter missing out on school or me having to miss out on work to take or pick her up from school,” Owens said. “I just want them to come to a conclusion as soon as possible.”
Washington Township sent this statement to the FOX59 newsroom:
For the second day in a row, Washington Township Schools has experienced a high volume of driver absences. Compounded with our existing labor shortage, these absences have put our bussing system in a critical situation.
On Tuesday, September 6, 11 bus drivers (12% of our current drivers) called off work for all or part of the day. Today, September 7, 27 bus drivers (28% of our current drivers) called off work. Combined with the 18 unfilled driver positions, these absences have impacted the District’s transportation efforts.
Despite these absences, over the last two days, the majority of bus drivers have been present and hard at work to support the needs of our students and school staff. These drivers have gone above and beyond to take on additional uncovered routes due to the unanticipated absences. For that, we are greatly appreciative and plan to reward these drivers and transportation staff accordingly with additional compensation.
Like many other school districts in the state and across the country, the District continues to experience a shortage of bus drivers and key staff. Even after record-high raises over the past two years, competitive wages and bonuses, offering incentive packages, and covering all training fees, the District is still unable to fill all driver positions. These positions are critical to smooth operations, and until they are filled, transportation services will continue to be impacted.
We deeply regret the impact this situation is having on Washington Township families. We have no plans to institute unplanned eLearning days as a result of bus driver absences, and District leadership will continue to collaborate with transportation staff, including drivers, and outside routing specialists to work to resolve all issues that are complicating student transportation.