CMS parents battling bus delays during first week of school, drivers in high demand

Bus drivers are one of the four critical shortages in the district including substitute teachers, HVAC employees, and exceptional children teachers.
Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 7:11 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools families are trying to work through delays during the first week of school.

According to CMS, nearly 90 positions are open, which also includes drivers who are on leave. District leaders said the driver shortage did play a role in first-day delays on Wednesday.

Bus drivers are one of the four critical shortages in the district including substitute teachers, HVAC employees, and exceptional children teachers.

Emily Lay has three kids in CMS. As a stay-at-home mom, she doesn’t have the flexibility to drive all of them to school.

“I was relying on the bus transportation,” Lay said.

Lay says she was prepared for the transportation department and school phones to be ringing off the hook and expected minor delays but says she didn’t expect the lengthy delays.

“What I didn’t anticipate is standing at the bus stop for literally an hour in the pouring down rain waiting for my son. Finally, he got home, his bus arrived at about 5:30,” Lay said as she waited for her middle schooler to get home.

That wasn’t Lay’s only issue. She says her oldest school son said students were standing up in the aisle and sitting four students to a seat.

According to the CMS School Bus Safety Policies, students must remain seated at all times when the bus is moving.

In February, WBTV spoke to Transportation Director Adam Johnson about COVID-19 protocols.

Under the state guidelines at that time, elementary school students can ride with up to two to three students in a seat which follows the state guidelines on least restrictive social distancing for K-5 students. Middle and high schoolers can only ride one person to a seat.

Current state guidance updated on August 26, recommends creating distance between children on school buses, allowing 3 feet of social distancing between students, and 6 feet of social distancing between students and drivers while seated on vehicles.

Lay also said she is requesting a change to her two elementary student’s stop which she says is 15 minutes away from their home.

If you want to change your child’s stop, you can fill out a transportation request form here.

Other parents say their children waited at the bus stop for thirty to forty-five minutes - making them late to school.

Others say it took over an hour longer to get home.

Shannon Peters has four sons in CMS, she dropped two off this week, and one only rode the bus in the morning but says her last child didn’t have a seamless experience.

“He was there until 8:30 a.m. when I left to drop off the other boys to school. He called me and he’s like the bus just passed,” Peters said.

Peters says it’s good to keep up with the bus numbers, substitutes and exact locations which is why she’s using the free “Here Comes the Bus App.”

“When it came out it was awesome because you can literally update and see if the bus tracker is on,” Peters said.

The district code for the app is 73877 and you must also have your child’s student ID number to sign up.

If you have any further questions and concerns, please feel free to contact the Synovia “Here Comes The Bus” app hotline at 1-844-854-9316 and or contact the CMS Transportation Department at 980-343-6715.

CMS is down nearly 90 drivers and is asking families to have grace - Peters says that’s all she can do as the district works to hire and straighten out delays.

“I feel like just have patience maybe within that first month,” Peters said.

CMS is currently offering a $1,000 recruitment and retention incentive for those looking to become bus drivers for the district.

According to CMS, the bus driver recruitment bonus will be $1,000 for all new drivers who have a start date this school year and who participate in a training class no later than Sept. 30.

If you are interested in becoming a bus driver, click here.

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