AP U.S.

Snags persist, but overall improvement for Kentucky district restarting classes after busing fiasco

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Despite some snags, Kentucky’s largest school district finished its bus drop-offs much earlier on Friday than it did a week earlier when a busing debacle on the first day of school delayed some students by hours.

Friday marked the first day back for elementary and middle school students after Jefferson County Public Schools canceled class for a week due to the busing problems. While some parents still reported delays on Friday, the district said in a news release that it dropped its last student off by 7:43 p.m., much earlier than the final drop-offs on Aug. 9 when some students got home after 9 p.m. On Friday all but 17 students had been dropped off by 7:15. That was on par with the busing performance on the first day of school in 2022, district officials said.

“Our bus drivers and staff did a phenomenal job getting tens of thousands of students safely to and from school today,” Marty Pollio, the district superintendent, said in a statement. “The short-term adjustments we put in place were successful and we continue to work on more substantial, long-term solutions.”

The busing fiasco came after the 90,000-student district had drawn up the new routes and staggered school start times over the summer in the hopes of alleviating driver shortage issues. But the new routes confused drivers and parents and led to chaotic busing a week ago.

After canceling a week of classes, Jefferson County Public Schools officials used the time off to add resources and help drivers learn new routes that were put in place this year. District officials apologized to outraged parents after the bus disruptions and pledged to improve drop off and pickup times. Friday was the first day back for elementary and middle school students, and high school students will return on Monday.

Officials on Friday were using an app that shows where buses are in real time. That app will soon also be available to parents.

Media reports around the city Friday morning and evening indicated fewer transportation issues, with some parents saying their students arrived on time or even earlier than expected.

But there were scattered reports of buses arriving late for school, including for two of Keeley Finn’s children. Finn said two of her three children rode the bus Friday morning, and although the buses arrived about 10 minutes late, both children arrived at school long after it had started.

Her 11-year-old son arrived at school at 9:30 a.m., she said.

“School starts at 8 a.m. and is only about a 12 minute drive from our house,” Finn said.

Her 13-year-old daughter has a longer commute, including a bus transfer, but actually arrived earlier — 44 minutes after the start of school, Finn said.

She thinks the transportation problems could be alleviated by increasing bus driver pay.

“They have a really hard job. They really do,” she said. “They put up with some very challenging behaviors. They deserve to be paid fairly for what they do.”

Berkley Collins, whose middle school daughter arrived home two hours late on the first day of school, said she arrived home 30 minutes early on Friday.

“She just came on in the house,” she said of her sixth grade daughter, Emma. “I’m hoping she has the same experience on Monday.”

But problems persist for her younger daughter, Arai, who hasn’t had a bus assigned to take her home from her elementary school. She missed school Friday. Collins spent Friday morning calling school officials and said she was told her daughter may not have a daily bus ride available for her until early next month.

“It makes me feel like her education isn’t important,” Collins said. She said she was told the school would forgive her daughter’s absences.

School officials advised parents in a note Thursday that they “expect some buses may drop children off at stops later than expected,” Friday. They also encouraged parents who could make alternate transportation arrangements to do so. The district has about 65,000 bus riders.

“While this is not ideal, it is the reality right now,” the note from JCPS officials said.

Some of the blame has been heaped on a contractor the district hired to redraw its bus routes. The changes by AlphaRoute led to some students not being picked up in the morning and others not getting home until nearly 10 p.m.

The company said it sent a team to Louisville to help address problems.

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This story has been corrected to show that Finn’s two children who rode the bus are a boy and a girl, not both daughters.

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