MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Public Schools officials say they aim to smooth out transportation issues by the end of the week, after they say hundreds of students were left waiting for the bus on the first day of school on Monday.
MPS Director of Business and Transportation Services David Solik-Fifarek said between 700 and 800 students experienced delays on Monday. He said that number was cut in half on Tuesday.
Christina Lelinski drove her son to Rufus King High School all the way from the south side on Monday after the bus never showed.
"I asked the bus company, is there a bus coming for Nick?" Lelinski said. "And they’re like, nope, we don’t have a driver for that bus."
Lelinski's son Nick has an IEP, and she hopes she can get his bus sorted out before she has to go back to work in two weeks.
"I called Central Office, one lady said, yep, that’s right, you got no bus," Lelinski said. "And I'm like, that’s not going to work."
Officials blame the driver shortage. MPS says it has about 620 drivers for 700 buses. One bus company said it is looking to hire at least 100 more drivers in the Milwaukee area. Otherwise, professionals say the bus driving industry has always been unpredictable.
"We’re not real sure what day drivers are going to show up or not, you know, you have ones that oversleep," said Rosalind Thomas of Wisconsin Central. "And we sympathize with the parents also, it’s hard to say that I've got to get you a bus, can you go back in the house, I'll send a bus to your home, and this parent has to go to work."
The companies say drivers will make at least $22 per hour and have the chance to earn thousands of dollars in bonuses.
In the meantime, Lelinski says she won't give up on calling to ask about her son's bus. MPS officials say they communicate with parents via text, email and voicemail about the status of their student's bus. Lelinski says it's not enough.
"How many times have I talked to somebody and they don’t want to say anything, they don't want to do anything, or they’re rude, and make these rude comments," Lelinski said. "Well, hey. I'm just asking so that I can plan my day, or what am I going to do with Nick?"