UTICA, N.Y. – Birnie Bus Service has responded to the Utica City School District’s claim that they had to postpone switching to hybrid learning next week because of a staff shortage at the bus company.
In a statement issued by Birnie Bus Wednesday, the company feels the district is shifting blame for their decision.
“The fact is Birnie Bus was never consulted about this decision and it is disingenuous for the district to try and blame Birnie Bus and our hardworking school bus drivers for a district’s decision not to follow its own previously announced plans. Nothing could be further from the truth,” the statement read.
During Utica’s school board meeting Tuesday night, district officials said Birnie Bus would need 31 more drivers to accommodate all of the district’s 127 bus routes. They would also need 19 additional drivers to serve as substitute coverage, according to the district.
Steven Falchi, administrative director of the district, said there were eight planning meetings with Birnie Bus over the past four months, and claims company management said there were more than 100 drivers and 25 substitutes on a call back list. Then, the district was told the company only has 96 drivers.
Birnie Bus, however, says they were ready, willing and able to begin as scheduled.
“Birnie Bus presented a number of viable transportation proposals that would have allowed for a Nov. 2, 2020 opening. The District chose to ignore both these proposals and its contractual obligations,” the statement read. “We hope the district will reevaluate its position and honor both its contractual obligations and its promise to begin in-person hybrid instruction at our elementary schools on Nov. 2, 2020 as scheduled.”