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MOUNT PLEASANT, WI — After a rough opening week to the 2019-20 school year in which a bus driver shortage resulted in drop-off delays of up to two hours, parents are hoping the Racine Unified School District, and their busing contractor, can get things together.

“The whole week has been rather stressful due to the busing situation. Picking my daughter up in the morning fortunately hasn’t been trouble but its after school that has been ridiculous,” Erica Littleton of Mount Pleasant told Patch. “Busing running two hours behind before even showing up? My daughter is five she doesn’t know any better. And as a parent I am scared knowing whether or not my daughter is even going to make it home safely. I should not have to worry about that.”

On April 1, the Racine Unified School District Board unanimously voted to go with First Student of Cincinnati as their transportation company instead of Durham, which had provided busing for more than 20 years.

After losing out on the busing contract with the Racine Unified School District for the 2019-2020 school year, Durham School Services laid off more than 200 employees. At the time, district officials were optimistic First Student would be able to re-hire most of them to help staff busing routes in fall.

It didn’t happen.

Officials last week said they were about 30 drivers short, resulting in existing drivers pulling double-duty to get students to-and-from school.

For some, was a disaster.

“I got a call this morning from school secretary saying [the bus] was two hours behind,
Amy Magnuson of Mount Pleasant told Patch. “I’ve been taking my daughter, but don’t understand, because my daughter is supposed to picked up at 6:27 a.m. Wouldn’t that be the first route of the morning? How can it be two hours behind that early?”

District officials are working with First Student to plug the gaps in bus coverage as fast as possible.

“RUSD is working at the highest level to support First Student in addressing these transportation issues,” district spokesperson Stacy Tapp told Patch. “The primary difficulty they are facing right now is a bus driver shortage. They are working to bring new drivers on board as quickly as possible, but that process takes some time (background checks, training, testing, etc.). This is a national issue many districts are dealing with right now.”

Tapp said First Student is sending additional staff to Racine, including support from their national office. Additional drivers ran practice routes the weekend in order to be ready to transport students on Monday.

District officials said they expect this will alleviate some of the challenges and begin to improve bus route timeliness.

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Based in New York, Patch is a hyperlocal platform that currently serves over 1,200 communities, towns and cities across the U.S. Known as “The Patch” by its users, Patch is the go-to destination for hyperlocal news and discussion about your community.