MERIDIAN -- Hundreds of students in Meridian have been waiting for school buses that aren't showing up on time. The delays have been up to an hour in some cases. The problem has been going on for months.
Frustratingly, the delays seem to happen at random, often when a driver calls in sick to work or quits unexpectedly. Mondays and Fridays are particularly troublesome. Parents and district officials say the effects are noticeable.
David Ross says his daughter is one of the many students affected. He says she periodically arrives late to class due to the issue.
For the fourth or fifth time, the bus has failed to show up to get her to school on time, Ross told KTVB, after contacting us Monday.
Ross says his 6th grader waited outside the family's home for more than an hour before a driver showed up Monday.
Officials at Joint School District No. 2 say a perpetual driver shortage is to blame.
So, what some drivers are doing is running double routes, said District Spokesman Eric Exline. They're picking up their route, dropping them off at school, then going back and running the other route that we have no driver for.
Exline says there's a reason they're running out of drivers. Paychecks have decreased since the district eliminated mid-day kindergarten, and the starting wage for a bus driver is now only about $45 dollars a day.
The problem began in 2008, when a decrease in statewide education funding prompted the district to cut $2.5 million from its transportation budget. The cuts forced the district revise bus routes and eliminate mid-day kindergarten, thereby leaving fewer hours for bus drivers to make money.
How to fix the problem?
Exline says district administrators would consider outsourcing transportation costs to a private company if that means more savings and the possibility of adding mid-day kindergarten back into the schedule.
It might be possible that contractors would be able to do it for less, and we would, as a part of that contract, be able to add back mid-day kindergarten busing, Exline said.
The district is expected to ask private bus companies for bids in about a month.
In the meantime, officials are considering using the district's smartphone app to alert parents when problems happen in the future.
As for David Ross, he doesn't care how the district solves the problem, just that his daughter gets to school on time.
I don't know if they need to switch to a private bus company, or what the resolution is going to be, but they've got to come up with a resolution somehow, because it's our kids that are suffering, Ross said.