WEST BEND, Wis. — Slow and overcrowded buses are just some of the concerns from a couple of West Bend School District parents. The district, like many across the country, is dealing with a bus driver shortage. It made for a rocky start to the school year.
"For me, my child has an almost hour and a half commute on a bus where they are packed with kids,” said Melinda, who did not give her last name.
She says it got so bad, she decided to pull her oldest child from the bus, even though it means an added burden for her family.
"You know, having the kids on the bus is an important thing for our family. It makes life quite a bit more simple, we both work so it's hard to facilitate getting to school on time and back and forth,” said Melinda.
According to Melinda, part of the problem is how long her 10-year-old child is on the bus. She says they live 2.3 miles from school. But on a day the bus runs perfectly, her son is on it for an hour and a half. That is about the same time it takes to drive from West Bend to Madison, according to Google Maps. However, Melinda says the first few days of school her son was on the bus until 5 p.m., which means he was on it for more than two hours. It is the same amount of time as if he had driven to Door County.
"He's in a new school. He was tired and he was basically in tears, it was just such a long route, and he said the windows were up he was hot and sweaty,” said Melinda.
We talked to Sara, another West Bend parent who did not want to go on camera. Her five children, including one with special needs, are all on the bus for about an hour. Sara tells us the buses are overcrowded, with at least three kids to a seat.
The West Bend School District released a statement acknowledging there have been some issues, but the buses are now running as expected.
“We continue to work each day devising solutions if issues occur to ensure the busing experience is positive. I encourage families to contact their child’s school with questions and concerns. As with other school districts, our busing company is working through a shortage in drivers. While the daily routes are covered, when a driver is out or not available for extracurricular events like athletics, we have struggled to have adequate staff. The start of the year included instances of combined or late routes which have been or are being addressed. We have had some instances where this caused late routes and combined routes. As of now, all the morning and afternoon routes are running as expected. In comparison to last school year, the buses are full and routes are longerbecause more students are riding due to the return of over one thousand students who participated in virtual learning last school year. We will be working to increase our communication with families and will be implementing a parent app that will provide real time information to families as early as January.”
Melinda says unless more changes happen her family will be driving her son.
"For me, it is just not a safe environment for my 10-year-old to be riding in and so our family has made the choice that he's he's no longer riding the bus,” said Melinda.