“Improvement:” Some CMS parents say bus delays are not as bad this week compared to start of last school year

CMS has some drivers taking on extra routes and has transportation managers are also driving routes
The second day of school is over for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students, and some parents say their bus journeys are already off to a better start.
Published: Aug. 30, 2022 at 6:42 PM EDT

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The second day of school is over for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students, and some parents say their bus journeys are already off to a better start.

CMS officials say the first pick-up on the first day of school Monday was at 5:05 am and the last drop-off was at 7:58 pm, which was a middle school student who got on the wrong bus. Officials say the first pick-up on the first day of school of the 2021-2022 school year was at 5:00 am and the last drop-off was 8:10 pm.

“We knew there were going to be delays,” said parent Karitsa Khalid whose middle school-aged daughter rides the school bus.

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CMS’ total student population averages 141,000 students and officials say 104,000 students are registered bus riders which is close to 74% of the total population.

For comparison, Wake County Public Schools System, which is the largest public school district in the state has a student population of 159,000, and 92,000 students are registered bus riders, which is close to 58% of the total population.

CMS officials say delays are to be expected for the first couple of weeks of school.

Day two of classes is complete for Charlotte-Mecklenburg students but, some are still facing transportation issues in the district.

Colette Forrest’s son originally went to West Charlotte High School for the first quarter of his ninth-grade year then transferred into the IB Program at Myers Park High School. His transportation is provided by CMS and his bus stop was added to the Myers Park list, because of the long distance he has a much earlier pick-up time.

“It was prompt. It came at 5:27 am yesterday and today,” Forrest said.

Both districts have drivers doubling up on routes to help with vacancies and limit buses from being over capacity.

CMS parents Colette Forrest and Karitsa Khalid understand delays are expected and say their children’s first two days went much smoother this year.

“I deserve this year because last year we’ve had the incidents where the bus didn’t show up because the bus stop wasn’t added, I had to take him to school, I was late for work,” Forrest said.

“It was supposed to be there at 7:48 and actually today it showed up on time, so major improvement. I don’t know about the afternoon,” Khalid said.

Both districts are steadily working to fill driver vacancies and doing everything they can to get students to school safely and on time.

As of August 12, WCPSS has 266 vacant bus driver positions out of a staff of 881 drivers. As of August 29, CMS has 38 vacant driver positions out of nearly 930 drivers in the department.

Both districts increased the starting salaries for drivers and have other recruitment incentives such as a signing bonus.

The starting pay in WCPSS is 17.20 an hour and the starting rate in CMS is 17.75 an hour.

“We understand the sacrifices that [the drivers] make,” Forrest said.

Forrest says these bus drivers play a vital role in ensuring children get to school for quality education.

Her son gets on the bus to his magnet program before 5:30 am - an early start she says is worth it.

“The more they try to make every school equitable so every child can get the resources that they need, the more these getting up with the roosters and the crows is going to be worth it,” she said.

CMS is encouraging families to download and use the “Here Comes the Bus” app which can be used to track a student’s bus in real-time, see delays, see bus number changes, or schedule changes.

To download the app, enter your child’s student ID number and the district code 73877.

CMS says parents and students can expect some delays on the app during the first two weeks of school due to thousands of changes that impact transportation data, but the district assures the correct stop and schedule information will still be displayed.

CMS says if the app displays any errors with schedules, stops, or other changes, to contact the Transportation Department.

If families have any further questions and concerns, they are encouraged 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.