The start to the school year at schools has been bumpy for parents of students who take the bus to school.
The Plymouth-Canton Board of Education discussed at its Tuesday meeting a series of problems with contracted bus drivers from Michigan Educational Transportation Services (METS) in the first week of the school year.
The problems were brought to the board by parent Melissa Uhl, who reported missed pickups on the first two days of school, a kindergarten student being dropped off at the wrong bus stop, late pick-ups and drop-offs and a rotating door of substitute bus drivers in the first seven days of the school year.
Uhl said because of the missed routes and late pick-ups, she has driven her children to school on four of the first seven days.
Phil Freeman, assistant superintendent of facilities and operations, said the district has struggled with keeping a full stable of bus drivers because of more competitive wages and benefits elsewhere.
“As the economy gets better, opportunities for drivers begin opening up,” he said. Freeman noted the district saw about a 25 percent turnover in drivers from last year.
“We’re paying a wage that’s lower than it should be,” Freeman said.
The specific driver assigned to the Uhls’ route, however, has been on medical leave, prompting a series of substitute drivers to fill in his route.
“We’re getting people on the road later than we’d like to without the practice we’d like to have,” Freeman said.
Board member Mark Horvath said whatever the cause may be for the busing issues, he wants to ensure it never happens again.
“Busing is a huge part of what we do, a huge part of our competitive edge,” Horvath said. “I don’t want to hear (that) this is a part of doing business.”
Freeman said the problem isn’t exclusive to Plymouth-Canton — he said similar situations have been common throughout Wayne County and in Washtenaw County.
Plymouth-Canton after switching from its in-house busing service to third-party busing to save money. Parents of special education students expressed concern at the time about the new bus drivers’ accommodations for their students.
Freeman said the district is working with METS to resolve the complaints.
Board President John Barrett called for a report on the cause and corrective action plan for the administration to deliver to the board for its next meeting.