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Bus challenges persist; Notre Dame parents scramble

Parents scramble to adjust work schedules, as school buses show up to pick up their children after school begins.

Posted: Sep 14, 2021 5:46 PM
Updated: Sep 14, 2021 6:04 PM

UTICA, N.Y. -- "And then we got a second letter four days before school started, informing us that they wouldn't be picking our children up for school until 8:40am. School starts between 7:50 and 8 o'clock at Notre Dame Elementary School," says Megan Rhodes, parent of a first-grader at Notre Dame Elementary School, in Utica. "We watched the first day of school, the children in the neighborhood get picked up and my daughter was absolutely devastated; she watched all of her friends get on the bus and she didn't get to ride the bus because I couldn't wait til 8:40 in the morning to take her to school because I'm also a mom and I work 8:30 to 4:30."

For Megan's daughter, the ride home didn't prove to be any better.

"Our students aren't getting picked up after school til 3:30 - 4 o'clock in the afternoon. I've watched the last four days of school, my daughter's bus come by at 4:35 when I get home from work, which is absolutely unacceptable," says Rhodes. "They have teachers that are staying after school on their own personal time to watch our children til a bus comes to pick them up." Rhodes says her daughter's school lets out at 2:15 p.m.

The Utica City School District is responsible for transporting Notre Dame students.

"We're experiencing late drop-offs in the morning and we're experiencing late pickups so it's not isolated just to the parochial private schools or even the charter school," says Utica School Superintendent, Bruce Karam.

Rhodes says she understands there's a national school bus driver shortage. She also says what's currently being done isn't working, and it's time to think outside the box.

"I have seen states look at other schools and they have made contracts with city bus drivers to have city bus drivers coordinate with the schools," says Rhodes.

Superintendent Karam didn't completely dismiss the idea, but, rather, approached with extreme caution, saying it's likely not as easy as it may seem.

"There's legalities here, so I would have to check the legalities so I don't even know if that's possible," says Karam. "It's not as easy as sometimes people think it is, there's always some kind of snafu, because, you know, school districts are highly regulated; transportation carriers are highly regulated by the state."

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