Kids riding the bus to school in Seattle had a more timely start to the school year on Wednesday compared to last year — but some parents reported communication hiccups.
By the end of the day, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) reported seven morning routes were running late, two of which were behind by about an hour. Last year, at the height of a transportation crisis that district officials vowed to fix, nearly 50 routes were running late on the first day of school, according to data provided by the district.
SPS transports about 22,000 students to school. The first day and week of school typically spell delays, district officials say. Bus drivers have to check off each student who boards, which can slow things down.
The district’s website did not report any late routes in the afternoon, though spokesman Tim Robinson said there are cases when delays aren’t posted to the website.
“They are entered as we become aware of them,” Robinson said in a text.
The bus came on time for Mark Kuiper’s daughter, Sonja, a seventh grader at Washington Middle School, one of the schools hit hardest by delays last year. But he had a Plan B in case things turned out as they did last year, when he says the bus was hours late on Sonja’s first day of middle school.
“If it’s gonna be late, text me,” he told her. Kuiper says he and other parents formed a carpool group last year, ready to assemble for extreme delays.
First Student, SPS’ primary school-bus contractor, provides most of Seattle’s 370 yellow buses. To offset some of the driver shortage at First Student, the district also has a contract with another company, Durham School Services. Kiyomi Taguchi’s son was supposed to be on one of those Durham buses this morning, but missed it because he didn’t see his route number or usual driver.
He called his parents just as school was starting to say the bus never came. Taguchi left work shortly after she arrived to take her son, also a seventh grader, to Washington Middle.
Correction: A previous version of this story said that Kiyomi Taguchi’s son waited an hour at his stop and never saw the bus. After the district disputed the timeline, Taguchi’s husband, Joe Shlichta, investigated further and discovered his son saw a yellow bus but didn’t board it because it was unfamiliar.