Cary, N.C. — The Wake County Board of Education heard from angry parents and apologetic staffers Tuesday night on the issue of busing for 75,000 to 80,000 public school students across the county.
Since the start of the traditional-calendar school year a week ago, parents have complained that buses are late, lost or non-existent, leaving students stranded at bus stops and at school or riding for hours to reach their destination.
Ricky Barker, of Cary, said his son rises at 5:30 a.m. for a 6 a.m. pickup. He ride the bus for 75 minutes to arrive at his school, six miles from home.
"I am fed up," said Alicia Motyka.
Tuesday was the first meeting of the Wake school board since the problems began. Board Chairman Kevin Hill opened with an apology. "I am dismayed by the events of last week," he said.
Chief Facilities and Operations Officer Don Haydon explained how the school system reduced the number of buses on the road this year by 52 to better match the state's bus efficiency model.
The district must maintain a balance of spending on buses and drivers – a formula that compares different districts across North Carolina determines efficiency – to keep millions of dollars in state funding.
Each extra bus costs the school district $70,000, system spokesman Mike Charbonneau said. The district also could lose about $3.5 million in state efficiency funds because of the additional buses, he said.
Over the past week, school officials have put 34 buses back into the fleet. Superintendent Tony Tata told the crowd that he took the bus himself on Tuesday in Apex, to be sure routes and drivers were on track.
"You've got to stop messing in kids' lives and do the right thing," parent Gayle Sabol said.