COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - A handful of concerned parents and citizens let the Muscogee County School Board know they demand a solution to recent transportation troubles, specifically with school buses.
The issue of bus delays dominated Monday afternoon's work session - the first of the 2018-19 school year. One parent took to the podium during the public agenda to share her frustration, as father Nick Nicholson waited for answers from officials on how his three children had bus travel issues the first day of class.
In particular, a delay involving one of Nicholson's children, who goes to Veterans Memorial Middle School, is the one he finds "inexcusable."
"The bus didn't even run the first two days," he said. "[It] didn't even pick her up at all."
Nicholson and other parents demanded answers from transportation officials as to why students are riding in overcrowded buses, or why buses are arriving either early or late to their assigned stops.
"As far as I know, high school has been getting out at 3:25 p.m. for years," Nicholson said. "For students to still be there at 5 p.m. waiting for a bus to come home, that's inexcusable."
Herbert Hill, MCSD's director of transportation, said one of several factors aggravating the delays is a personnel shortage. Hill said the shortage doesn't compare to the need
"We're about 8 to 10 drivers short this year versus last year. We were about 20 short." Hill also said a recent wave of driver resignations - five total - are hampering his staff's plans.
When asked how long he believes it will take his staff to sort out the logistics, Hill said he anticipates the department will work the problems out "real soon."
"Do I have a definite timeline? No," Hill said, "but my team has been working for the past few weekends and until 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. just trying to get all students routed."
Hill also said one of his staff's priorities going into the school year was making sure pre-K and elementary school students are dropped off and picked up at the right time.
Parents like Deandra Bradley and Samantha Walker came to Monday's session, reporting to the district that their young children were reportedly left unsupervised for longer than they would expect.
Bradley and Walker said they simply wanted the opportunity to talk to Hill and voice their concerns.
"I think [Hill] heard what we were saying about our children, kind of putting himself in our position," Walker said. "Hopefully, with the concerns we have, it won't happen again."
"I'm confident now. I feel like some changes are going to be made," Bradley said. "[Hill] was very concerned about our children, so that made me feel a whole lot better."
Despite Hill updating the public on where his staff stands on easing bus delays, Nicholson said some parents don't have the luxury of waiting indefinitely for the district to find a solution.
"They are actually depending on this transportation department to get their students, their kids safely to and from school every day." Nicholson said. "If they can't do that, then how can I trust them with my children?"