Raleigh, N.C. — The Wake County Public School System's interim superintendent says that bus operations ran smoothly Monday on the first day of classes for thousands of year-round students.
"We believe that we've had a really good first day of the school year," Cathy Moore told reporters Monday afternoon, saying the district had received few reports of major issues and that principals at the 30 elementary and eight middle schools opening also reported few problems.
School officials acknowledged some bus delays Monday morning but said they were expected.
"It’s nothing more than what we anticipate for the start of the year," Renee McCoy, Wake schools' director of public relations, said. "We’ve got about 20,000 students that we’re trying to get delivered, so we’re using this opportunity to learn and to get us ready for the traditional start of the school year, which will present other things that we hope we will have worked out."
The first day for traditional-calendar schools is Aug. 26.
Parents are urged to continue reporting transportation issues to the district via the Wake schools website but to also be patient for the first couple of weeks of school as they continue to evaluate and shift bus routes.
Moore said more buses and more drivers on the road Monday helped avoid problems last year that were blamed on budget cuts. Parents complained for weeks about a variety of issues, including long bus rides and children either not being picked up or dropped off at their assigned bus stops.
The district added more than 50 buses to the roads and has since hired 120 new drivers. It's still looking to hire 100 permanent drivers.
But some parents, like Shannon Coulter, said communication, not transportation, was the problem Monday.
Coulter, whose son attends Wilburn Elementary School in Raleigh, said she never received information from the school about her child's bus stop, class assignment or necessary school supplies. Despite calling the school twice last week, she said, she never heard back.
"I had to leave a message," she said. "There was no response, and there hasn't been any communication – no returned phone calls, no letters in the mail, no emails. Nothing."
McCoy said "a fraction" of parents had similar issues that were caused by a glitch. Moore said the district is transitioning to a new student information system and that parents with questions and concerns about school-specific items should contact the school.
"Anytime you have 169-170 schools, there are going to be issues with the best way to communicate with families," Moore said.