OPS: Bus issues improving; 56 schools impacted

Posted at 6:21 PM, Sep 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-09 19:23:47-04

OPS officials say the number of students being picked up late for school is decreasing each day.  KMTV has uncovered the total number of schools impacted by the busing crisis, and what OPS staff members are covering some routes.

In emails obtained through an open records request, the Omaha Public School District reports that 56 schools had bus issues during the first week of school.

OPS did a survey of 36 principals and 78% of them said they had at least one bus more than 15 minutes late on the first day of school.

Student Transportation of America, the contracted company, says a driver shortage caused the situation but they’re training drivers quickly. 

On Wednesday, STA and the OPS transportation department told the board that consolidating routes and helping with others has reduced the late buses to four.

OPS Board President Lou Ann Goding says parents weren't notified immediately that their children didn't have a bus driver because the district didn't know either.  It wasn't until the weekend after school started that they identified 65 routes that weren't covered.

"I think that is one of those situations where it was very difficult because we didn't know from Student Transportation of America which routes they weren't covering, so we were trying to communicate to everyone which is very difficult,” Goding explained.  "20/20 looking back it would be great if we could've identified which busses early on weren't going to be filled and contacted those families directly."

OPS staff members are covering 10 routes by driving school vans.  KMTV uncovered emails saying OPS contacted 85 custodians at their schools to see if they could drive; 9 of them volunteered and make up some of the new drivers.

Goding says all of them have CDL's and are insured to drive.

"In those cases where it's individuals who have never worked with students in a vehicle we are putting (paraprofessionals) on with them so that the (paraprofessionals) can be with the students so it didn't leave someone who isn't typically dealing with students," Goding described.

Superintendent Mark Evans has asked the Council of Great City Schools to audit their transportation policies.  Experts will be coming in from Texas, California, and Colorado likely by the end of the month.  OPS should have an idea of what it will cost next week.