MUNCIE, Ind. — A school district here resumed classes on Monday after having worked to resolve problems that caused the first and second days of school to be canceled last week.
On Wednesday, which was supposed to be the first day of school for the district, Muncie Community Schools experienced multiple problems with transporting students. There were significant delays in taking students to and from school, students waited for buses that never picked them up, and some students had to give directions to bus drivers, The Star Press reports. Many parents called 911 to find out where their children were because they said that no one answered the phone at the school bus company, Auxilio, or at their child’s school.
Factors that contributed to the transportation problems were the challenges that the first day of school usually presents, redistricting, and a transitory population, according to a news release issued by the district on Thursday. (One result of the redistricting was that many elementary school students had to travel farther than in the past due to three school closings, according to The Star Press.)
In addition to being unfamiliar with the area, newly hired bus company Auxilio and the route coordinator, True Consultants, received many incorrect routes. Another hurdle was that many drivers quit just days before school started. The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) and other school districts stepped in to offer assistance.
Dr. Steve Baule, the superintendent of schools, announced in the news release last week that the district would wait until Monday to start classes again, to give the transportation department enough time to resolve the issues. Baule made the announcement after meeting with his staff, the bus company, the route coordinator, IDOE, and members of the emergency management team.
“The issues we had Wednesday with our transportation system were unacceptable, and we are working diligently to make sure this situation is not repeated,” Baule said. “The safety of our students is our top priority. The situation was unsafe, and it is paramount that we correct those issues before we resume school.”
Debbie Feick, the school board president, told The Star Press that 20% of the bus drivers quit in the days before school started. Muncie Community Schools had urged Auxilio to hire drivers from the district's former long-term bus contractor, M&M Bus Co., according to the newspaper. Feick also told The Star Press that Auxilio said they “had hired 26 out of 37 drivers” from M&M Bus, and that she didn’t know why the drivers had quit. Auxilio “had to quickly bring in drivers from Michigan," which is where the company is headquartered, she added.
On Sunday, the school district told WTHR that the schedule and route problems were corrected, the contractor was fully staffed with drivers, and 29 buses ran through every route over the weekend.
Classes have resumed with some adjustments in the schedule for elementary school students, the Associated Press reports.
Some parents reported that their children had been picked up on time on Monday, and others said their children had waited up to 40 minutes for their bus, The Star Press reports.