Parents angry with DPS busing woes

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Dayton Public Schools has struggled with busing problems this week, with some buses running very late, leaving worried parents unsure where their children were more than an hour after they were supposed to be home.

Busing problems for schools have increased in recent years as local districts struggle to find enough substitute drivers to cover routes when primary drivers are out.

More than 15 local school districts currently have job postings for substitute bus drivers on the Dayton Area School Employment Consortium web site, including Dayton, Centerville, Fairborn and Tipp City. A few districts are still trying to cover primary driver jobs.

“All of our routes were covered (Thursday), but supervisors were driving some of the routes, and we did have some late buses,” DPS spokeswoman Jill Moberley said. “(Interim Chief Operating Officer) Jo Wilson said eight of our sub drivers were taking their final state certification exam (that day).”

Dayton resident Joshua Combs said his children’s bus from Kiser School was more than an hour late Thursday for the second day in a row. Combs said he was frustrated because he couldn’t get through to the transportation line, and by that point, the school was closed.

“I’m just tired of the situation,” Combs said, on the third day of the school year.

Callers to the DPS transportation hotline at 4:30 p.m. Thursday were told to expect a 50-minute wait as 35 other callers were in line ahead of them. Combs said his kindergartener and a second-grader eventually got home 75 minutes late.

While Dayton has had problems at multiple schools, the issue is not universal. At Ruskin Elementary on Friday, all buses were loaded and rolling by 2:20 p.m. after a 2:15 dismissal. School leaders said they’ve had no problems this week.

Dayton is not the only district that has had busing issues in the first week of school. Kettering sent a message to parents Wednesday afternoon warning that multiple buses would be a half-hour late on the first day.

For several months, Kettering Schools had a large sign along Far Hills Avenue asking for people to apply as drivers. The current job posting says drivers with proper commercial licenses are preferred, but adds “we will train qualified applicants who pass a background check and physical.”

Moberley said Dayton is now placing two buses on standby — one east and one west — so a bus can respond quickly if a regular route is running way behind. She also said DPS is continually training new drivers, with two classes going on now. Wilson encouraged anyone interested in driving to call the district’s human resources office.

Dayton Public Schools also provides busing for charter school students within DPS boundaries. Parent April McIntosh said the bus didn’t show up Tuesday morning, the first day at Pathway school, so her husband drove their daughter to school, making him late for work. The bus is supposed to get her daughter home at 3:47 p.m. each day, but on the first two days, she arrived at 5:05 and 5:20, McIntosh said.

“I tried calling transportation and was on hold for over 33 minutes being told over and over that my call was important to them,” McIntosh said. “I have been losing this battle (with DPS busing) for 11 years.”

At Dayton’s school board meeting Tuesday night, new superintendent Rhonda Corr talked about having ridden a DPS bus that morning to get a feel for transportation issues.

“I do know that we still have some challenges with transportation,” Corr said. “Anytime somebody can capture attention because their child got home an hour late, of course that bothers us.

“We will work through the glitches. We ask for your patience. And more importantly, as we talk about partnerships, let us know what the glitches are so we can fix them.”