Changes created some problems on first day of school in Suffolk

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by Karen Hopkins, 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on September 3, 2013 at 12:45 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 3 at 6:00 PM

SUFFOLK - Back-to-school day in Suffolk didn't go quite as smoothly as officials hoped it would - the main problem was transportation.

“The first day is always a rough day,” Assistant Superintendent Kevin Alston said.

Suffolk rolled out new start times this year for all its schools to save nearly $700,000 in transportation costs. Drivers are taking on an extra bus route.

“Drivers were supposed to make dry runs last week. We got questions this morning that make me wonder if all the dry runs were done. That’s something I have to investigate,” Alston remarked.

Officials also say eight buses had mechanical problems, further adding to the troubles.

Additionally, parents were blocking traffic outside Elephant's Fork Elementary School, making bus drivers late to their next route.

Then, about 1,000 students showed up at bus stops, but their parents hadn't enrolled them in school. Alston explained now all these kids must be added into the bus routes.

Adding to the confusion, phone lines were down at school transportation so parents couldn’t call to ask about delays. The school district’s alert system was also not working, so school officials could not send messages to parents about transportation problems.

The district is short nine bus drivers, but substitute drivers were used for the first day. Alston explained the district has a hard time hiring bus drivers. In fact, about two weeks before school started, Suffolk still needed 17 drivers so that all 145 slots were filled.

“It’s like this every year, it gets better each day,” Alston said.

The Creekside elementary crossing guard resigned to take another job. Alston is working to find a police officer to help until a replacement is found.

“A crossing guard is only a three hour a day position, you barely make enough to pay your gas. So if another job opens up, why wouldn’t they leave?”

Suffolk Public Schools has all the bus routes on its Website.

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