Cary, N.C. — Wake County public schools' Superintendent Tony Tata held a news conference Tuesday to respond to the outcry about back-to-school busing issues.
New bus routes that made children late to school and home got the start of the traditional calendar school year in Wake County off to a bumpy start on Monday. Parents were still reporting problems on Tuesday.
"I wanted to ensure families that we hear every concern, we're taking every concern seriously and we’re working hard to make things work more smoothly," Tata said. "Today was a marked improvement over yesterday."
"Your child's safety and security are foremost in our minds as we do this," Tata added. "We appreciate the contact and communication, and keep letting us know until we get it right."
More than 900 Wake County school buses transport 75,000 to 80,000 students per day and make about 25,000 stops. Dozens of buses were taken out of service this year to cut costs, maintain efficiency and keep state funding, according to school officials.
"As big as a county that Wake County is and how much we have grown, we do grow to expect this year over year," district spokeswoman Cris Mulder said of the bus problems.
Parents said communication would have made a huge difference. They said the district never alerted them to bus delays and the possibility that they children might be hours late.
Mulder said checking and double-checking each bus takes time. She asked that parents bear with it and said that the situation should improve each day because of the feedback they're providing.
"We are able to monitor and track and find out what buses are making their stops on time," she said.
Parent Neil Gettinger said he had numerous problems getting his three children to and from their schools. The two buses did not show up for his middle-schooler and two high-schoolers Monday morning.
On Tuesday morning, the middle school bus was 30 minutes late, and the high school bus drove right past the bus stop, he said.
"We’re fundamentally failing these kids if we can’t get them to the school," Gettinger said. "I think the system’s really big and, as a parent, we don’t understand all the intricacies of it, but we don’t care, we need our kids going to school."