Bus delays leave students stranded
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The sun beating down on their backs. Backpacks weighing down heavily on their shoulders. They watch one leave. And then another. And then another. Until the last one pulls out of the parking lot.
At first, they complained, but now, they aren’t talking as much as before. Now they’re just kicking dirt around to pass the seemingly never-ending expanse of time before they can leave.
The unusual quiet envelops the usually rowdy space. They’re the last ones there. Again.
Getting home late
For students who ride the transfer bus, this has been almost a daily occurrence. And it’s not new. Last year, they could be found under the same tree, waiting for the same bus.
The transfer bus averages around 10 to 15 minutes late on an average day, and that delay has been a source of frustration to the students who rely on it to get home. “It really interferes with after-school activities and plans,” freshman Damion Huynh said. “It’s frustrating because while we’re waiting for the buses, we have to wait in the heat.”
It’s a usual occurrence for buses to be late the first few weeks of school as drivers learn and get used to their routes. But as the first quarter ended, the patience of sophomore Joshua Lassey had run out. “My bus is late almost every day since the beginning of the school year,” he said. “It gives me even less time to complete my homework resulting in even less sleep.”
Tardiness is expected
There are multiple reasons a bus could be behind schedule. One is that its previous route serving an elementary school ran late. Another could be a lack of drivers that require a bus to make what’s called a “double run,” where it delivers students then returns to campus to pick up others.
According to district spokeswoman Tanya Arja, the school district began the year with more drivers than routes, but some drivers have left since August. As of Monday, the district was down 32 drivers short. The goal is to again get fully staffed and then establish a substitute pool, so there are enough drivers to fill in or help with routes.
Much of the student frustration stems from the fact that this is experience is not just limited to after the final bell rings. Often, after experiencing delays for their first bus at school, they also must wait at the transfer station for a second bus.
“I take a transfer bus so in total it takes around two hours to actually get home,” Lassey said. “What usually takes the longest is if we get to the transfer station on time and it takes an hour or so to transfer.”
However, not everyone on the transfer bus shares these frustrations.
“The latest I have ever gotten home has been 5:30, which was annoying at the time,” sophomore Alexander Randall said. “At first, I was annoyed at getting home a bit later, and my mom was in the middle of cooking dinner. I vented a bit, but I got over it fairly quickly.”
The district’s plan forward
This isn’t a popular opinion. For most, the delay has just been a disruption. “I have an after-school routine, and things are sometimes pushed off, ”freshman Dreannah Smith said. “It causes things to get held back.”
Smith doesn’t think the district’s plan is adequate to solve the problem. “I think the buses should have to get to school by a certain time,” she said.
Randall agrees with the district’s plan. “I feel like [the problem] stems from a lack of bus drivers, so making the job more desirable so that drivers are less inclined to quit, and more people are inclined to take the job would be the best way I see to fix it,” he said.
As of now, the transfer station continues to present an issue in getting students home on time.
Still, Arja said on-time service has improved dramatically since last school year thanks to changes in start times.