OPS busing better this year, says special-needs student's mom

Posted at 6:29 PM, Aug 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-23 19:57:01-04

It's the first day of school for young Lily Sutton, her second year in pre-kindergarten at Beals Elementary.

Last year, a ride on the bus wasn't a given. For more than a month in the fall 2016, Lily’s bus was half an hour to an hour late every day, forcing her mom to drive her to school.

She rides a special bus; because of her septo optic dysplasia, she's partially blind.

"I said, ‘Well, how's the bus going to come at 9 o'clock if school starts at 9 o'clock, she's going to be late every day?" Lily's mom said.

More than 3,000 OPS students either were picked up long after their stop time or didn't get a ride at all because of a driver shortage. This year on the first day of school, it was a different story.

"When the guy picked her up this morning, he asked me, ‘So, it's this house Monday to Thursday, and her dad's house on Friday?’ And I said, ‘That's correct.’ So, I mean, they seem like they're really on top of it this year, which I hope that they are,” Sutton said.

For 2017, OPS is using 100 less buses, putting more students on each vehicle, changed transportation zones, and got the routes to student transportation two months in advance.

The district reports on Aug. 17-18 OPS drivers were on time 97 percent of the time, while STA made the school bell 99-percent of the time.

Sutton said Lily has made major progress with her mobility and learning, and her mom hopes the systemic failures of last year’s busing crisis are over.

"So far, like I said, it's OK. It seems like the communication is very good, so I'm hoping they keep it up for sure," she said.

OPS reports they've received about 6,400 total calls. Top questions are mostly about bus stop information and address changes, but not as many calls as last year about children not being picked up.