Many parents expressed anxiety about the changes, with experiences divided: some saying it went well, while others said it feels like the start of the school year all over again.
The changes include new bus routes, new bus stops, and new drivers for nearly all of the district’s 38,000+ students.
“The bus did come today but it was 40 minutes late and there was not an aide on the bus which was disappointing, so it just makes me nervous as a parent,” Ashley McCarthy said.
McCarthy is worried about what Columbus City Schools plan means for her daughter, a special needs student with an IEP. She said she called the district’s transportation office Tuesday to see if her daughter had an aide for the bus.
“I waited for 4-and-a-half hours before I got to speak with someone, and I was immediately put on hold as soon I got on the phone and was told there should be an aide, but if there wasn’t, I could call back today to complain,” McCarthy said.
The Transportation Department shared an update with the Columbus City School Board of Education Tuesday, saying bus drivers have been practicing routes since early December. The district now has 512 drivers for 466 routes.
A spokesperson with the district said there were enough drivers to cover routes and that Wednesday morning’s rain did lead to some delays. The district also deployed a handful of “sweeper buses” to pick up students who might have missed their bus.
But some parents said they believe not all routes were covered.
Robin Adams must be at work by 8 a.m. She said she stayed with her kids at the bus stop for as long as she could.
“8:45 a.m., after they’ve been there about an hour, I told them to go on home,” she said.
Adams has four charter school students who are bused by CCS transportation. She said she worries about their education.
“What’s even more disappointing is the fact that they’re missing school,” Adams said. “I’m a single parent; I can’t get them… a working single parent, so I can’t get them to school out north and I live south, and I work downtown, so it’s a bit much.”
Parent Raven Brown said she ended up taking her two elementary school aged students so they wouldn’t be late. She said reaching the transportation call center was an issue for her.
“I called them this morning; I called them three times,” Brown said. “The phone just rang. It didn’t even ring, it rang busy.”
Brown said she also wants the bus drivers to know this.
“Also, I just want to say me, personally, I don’t blame the bus drivers,” she said. “I feel like this is a Columbus City School thing, so just the bus drivers know, it’s not their fault.
A district spokesperson said the transportation call center line reached capacity several times Wednesday. The district has updated the line and encouraged families who are concerned that their bus did not show up to call it.
Both Adams and McCarthy hope any issues get ironed out soon but they’re still worried.
“I’m definitely worried about tomorrow, yes, I am,” Adams said. “I figure that we’ll be at the bus stop at 7:30 tomorrow, which is a 30-minute wait, and see if it will come earlier or later.”
“I honestly might pick her up because the new bus route is bringing her home close to 5 p.m., so 8 a.m. for an 8-year-old, that’s a full work day that would stress anybody out, let alone a child,” McCarthy said.
In addition to the CCS Transportation Call Center (614-365-5074), the transportation information should be available on the parent portal. School administrators and secretaries will also have access to bus route information.