KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) The first day of school is always a learning curve for parents, students and educators, but hours of waiting and children on the wrong buses is just too much, some Killeen ISD parents say.
"I was at work, and I got a text message from him around 8 a.m. saying the bus had not shown up and other students were leaving," parent Sarah Rose said.
Rose had to leave work Monday morning to pick up her son and take him to school because his bus never showed.
And it wasn’t an isolated incident.
From late pick-ups to late drop-offs, the Killeen ISD’s first day of school was filled with speed bumps.
One parent reported that her child didn’t get home until 7:20 p.m. Monday.
"They're kind of in limbo,” Rose said.
“The school’s not answering the phone, transportation’s not answering the phone, and you don't know where your child is--that's scary."
KISD said changes are coming for the area’s largest school district.
During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Superintendent Dr. John Craft said the district was aware of a shortage of more than 50 bus drivers before the year started.
Craft also admitted that it's an ongoing crisis nationwide.
He said construction on and near campuses also added to opening day congestion.
“We've got to have our bus loops cleared. Parent traffic, after-school pick-up traffic, that's one of the major adjustments,” he said.
Things snowballed Monday as buses running late from their first routes dipped into their second and third route schedules for older students.
Then, there was the route number confusion.
“Some of our students were getting on the wrong bus,” Craft said.
The confusion added to delays as students had to be returned to campuses or dropped at off-route locations.
The district says students need to know their four digit route number, not the three digit bus numbers.
Children as young as 5 are being asked to check for a symbol that matches their route.
“We’re also asking our campus staff to check and double check, triple check that all of our students are getting on the correct route number bus,” Craft said.
Another problem was that substitute drivers were having to fill in and pick up late routes, but they did not switch out the route numbers posted on their buses- an issue the district says has also been addressed.
Panicked parents were also complaining that their school officials did not know where their kids were, and there were long wait times as they tried to call the transportation department.
“One of the things that we are looking to add in the near future is a tracking system where students will be issued a barcode to scan a barcode ID, and then parents will have access to know where their student is at any given time,” Craft said.
Parents with concerns can call the transportation department directly and check their website to verify route numbers and bus schedules.
Tuesday, district officials reported that the two-hour wait times had gone down to 25-40 minutes.
The district is also planning to hire eight to 12 more drivers by the beginning of September.