Dallas ISD responded to concerns Wednesday over bus problems during the first week back to school under its new program.
Until now, the program was operated under the now dissolved Dallas County Schools.
“It’s a new process for us as it is for eight other school districts in the area, so we’re doing everything we can to work through the issues and deal with the driver shortage. We’re seeing incremental improvement every day, and we think by next week we should be in a better situation,” said Deputy Superintendent for Operations Scott Layne.
According to Layne, the district believed it was 10 to 20 drivers short in the week leading up to the school year. But come Monday, district officials learned that number was closer to 100.
“We had many drivers that didn’t show up for whatever reason. Some of them we haven’t been able to get ahold of that planned to work here. I think that’s pretty typical for a transportation system,” said Layne.
With close to 800 total routes, a shortage of nearly 100 drivers has meant delays and route changes for some students.
Ema Lopez says her son’s Monday morning bus never showed to take him to the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy after her husband dropped him off at 6:15 a.m.
Three hours later, her husband was forced to leave work to drive him himself. That afternoon, she says the bus bringing him home took just as long.
“I said I don’t see my son, and I’ve been here for more than an hour, and I don’t see them anywhere,” said Ema Lopez.
She said someone with the district’s call center told her there was still another stop on the route, meaning her son didn’t arrive until a few minutes before 7 p.m.
“He was so sad, so exhausted, because it was the first day of school. You know, you just want the first day to be as smooth as it can be, and it just didn’t happen,” said Lopez.
Instead, he told her he spent 20 or 30 minutes of the ride on the floor due to overcrowding. The next day, she asked another parent to help shuttle her son to school while she took care of her daughter.
Lopez said she’s yet to receive a definitive answer from the district on how long it will take to resolve the issues. Until they do, she says she’s forced to rely on the help of others to get her son there and back stress free.
They're problems the district acknowledged Wednesday along with the need to cancel several after school activities.
“I apologize for what’s transpired but I truly ask for their patience. You know, we’re starting a new program. It’s a big program, and there are constant adjustments being made every single day. So I truly believe we’ll have most of the issues resolved by next week,” said Layne.
The district has set up a special call center staffed with more than 40 people to answer transportation questions during this time. Originally scheduled to be open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Layne announced Wednesday that it’s now open until 8 p.m.
For problems after that time, he says help can be reached at a 24 hour police dispatch center at 214-932-5627.