RALEIGH, N.C. — Students in Wake County head back to class Tuesday morning.
Even with months of planning out routes, school bus drivers do not know who or just how many Wake County students will board their buses.
They say a quick decision by parents will make the ride smoother for everyone.
In Wake County, 765 school buses will make 26,500 stops transporting more than 60,000 students. The numbers always add up to back-to-school complications.
"We're just gearing up, trying to figure out a way to make it run as smoothly as possible," said Vern Hatley, Wake County Schools transportation director.
If past years set a precedent, that will take a few days to work out with buses showing up too early or too late or confusion over which bus to take.
Add seven new schools, a massive reassignment of 7,500 students and approximately 4,000 new students to Wake County's logistical log jam and even the best-laid mapping strategy will be stretched.
"We're talking about 4,000 bus routes. A lot of those had to be changed," Hatley said.
Because of the typical first-week kinks, some parents like to wait a few days to put their children on the buses in hopes of avoiding problems. School leaders say that actually makes it worse.
"With the onslaught of the second week, if parents decide to use it who have not been using it the first week, it causes more kinks," Hatley said. "So, we go through the same process and it drags out even longer."
Hatley urges parents to put children on the bus starting with the first day of school.
Drivers have checked their routes and their rides, but there is no easy way to prepare for the unpredictable.
"I will assure you what we thought is going to be there, in fact, is not going to be reality," Hatley said.
Wake parents who have problems or questions can call one of 13 transportation field offices for help. Each school has the number. School leaders advise students and parents to show up at the bus stop early and pack patience.