Thousands of Columbus City Schools students waited for buses the first day of school, some delayed because of a driver issue.
School district leaders said they did not have enough licensed bus drivers ready to hit the road on Wednesday. Fifty-one routes were affected by the driver shortage, according to Columbus City Schools spokesman Jeff Warner.
There are approximately 800 Columbus City Schools bus routes.
Officials said a verbal contract fell through with a contractor that was to supply temporary bus drivers while district drivers completed their licensing.
On the first day, many parents said that they expected to deal with delays.
The school district’s shortage of bus drivers did not change that.
Hamilton fourth-grader Melahni Ibokette waited at least 20 minutes for her bus.
On 23rd Avenue, the wait was even longer for third-grader Ionnah Hensler.
She waited for the bus with her step mother, who said that it took 40 minutes for the bus to arrive.
“My time says 8:48 a.m., and we got here at 8, so I guess that’s OK,” said parent Jan Dunning.
Parent Montye Ibokette said that there was no choice but to wait.
“I’m sure Columbus City Schools isn’t happy about being late or cutting into kids’ education,” Ibokette said. “So, we’ll just wait. We have no choice.”
District officials said they anticipated delays of up to 30 minutes for some elementary school students.
They said that some drivers picked up double routes to make sure students made it to class Wednesday morning.
Once the day started, students seemed to settle in, but the new superintendent acknowledged the rocky start.
“I know that many families counted on those children being able to board the bus at a certain time in the morning, and certainly many of our families don’t have the luxury or even the opportunity to change their work schedule or daily plans to be available an extra 30 minutes to provide supervision,” acting Superintendent Dr. Dan Good said.
Parent Melissa Green said that she went straight from work to Eastmoor Academy to pick up her daughter.
“We got them in the lottery, and they all go to different schools, so now everybody, my dad’s getting involved to go clear up north to pick one up. I’m picking up my daughter, because she’s closer than I am to getting one of my nieces,” Green said.
Staff at Eastmoor said that most of their regular buses showed up on time on Wednesday afternoon.
Green said she would feel better when all the district’s drivers were in place.
“It’s just a big hassle right now,” Green said. I’m just glad I get off at 1:30 p.m.”
Between students who have COTA passes, parents who pick up their children and those who walk home, it appears there were not too many high school students stranded.
A lot of parents said they were able to pick up their children, but they are not sure they can do it for the next five or six weeks.
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