School bus driver shortages causing delays in Buffalo School District

“In my eyes — that's unacceptable for any children"
Posted at 6:21 PM, Sep 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-14 12:42:05-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Nationwide school bus driver shortages are hitting close to home. Some parents in the Buffalo Public School District say they are dealing with delays.

One parent contacted 7 Eyewitness News to speak out. He is upset his children are getting home so late from a long-day at their school building.

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Gary Cutright, Buffalo School parent.

“When I heard they were going to be shorthanded — I knew this was going to be a disaster,” declared Gary Cutright, parent.

Cutright has four children who attend the Lovejoy Discovery School in Buffalo. He said last week he received notices that his 12, 8,7 and 5 year old children would be getting home late because of bus delays.

“Wednesday they didn't get on the bus until 6:40 — didn't get home until 7. In my eyes — that's unacceptable for any children — let alone a five year old,” stated Cutright.

Gary Cutright's four children.

“And what happened when they were held so late. Were they fed?” Buckley asked.

“All they got was one small package of animal crackers and that was it to hold them over,” replied Cutright.

Cutright received another call Monday to expect bus delays again and asked if he could pick up his children, but Cutright doesn't drive.

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Outside Lovejoy Discovery School in Buffalo.

“It’s very difficult for you because you rely on public transportation yourself?” Buckley questioned.

“Yes, it's very difficult because if the NFTA wasn't giving free rides to the students last week. I wouldn't have been able to go get them because I’m on a limited budget,” Cutright explained.

The district issued a statement Monday in response to the bus delays.

It states in part parents were informed by the district's transportation department to “expect delays.”

I spoke with BPS school board President Lou Petrucci.

Buffalo School Board President Lou Petrucci

“We, as the board, do not do the hiring directly — we have a contract with First Student. I know that is actively engaged that they've been trying to recruit as many drivers as they can,” Petrucci noted.

But Cutright says he blames Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash and the school board for not planning for the delays.

“I see districts across the country paying parents to take them to school or even giving out bus passes to go pick up their children — Buffalo just got all this money — they could have dipped into it,” remarked Cutright.

Buffalo School Board President Lou Petrucci in a Zoom interview.

“Would there be any consideration to offer — if you could — a free bus pass for them for public transportation — just in the interim,” Buckley asked the board leader.

“My hope, Eileen, is that we get this resolved prior to us issuing bus passes,” responded Petrucci. “The board is working hard to address the issue. It is a national problem. It is not unique to Buffalo.”

Petrucci said he does feel sorry for Cutright’s situation.

“No one wants their children coming home at 7’o’clock at night. I know that as a parent I wouldn’t either,” Petrucci noted.

The district statement says 18 drivers out of 515 were reported to have resigned over the past ten day.

First Student School Bus.

“We had people quit that we weren’t expecting. Many newer drivers, with newer routes — that was part of it,” Petrucci stated.

But Petrucci noted First Student has interviewed 192 potential new drivers and the district expects about 30 to 40-percent will make it through the final hiring processes.

First Student school bus.

“When we increase the numbers, the delays will go down,” Petrucci remarked.

Petrucci says the district is encouraging school families to use a new app that works smartphones which indicates when a bus is leaving and tracks its whereabouts.

“The first couple of weeks, until we get this all worked out — there are going to be these problems,” said Petrucci.

The following is the full statement issued by the Buffalo Public School District:

"Parents are demonstrating patience as we transport students by bus to their re-opened schools. As was communicated in the letter to parents from our Transportation Department, parents could expect delays. In the days to come, we expect that transportation delays caused by the national bus driver shortage and the typical issues associated with the first days of school will be resolved or significantly improved.

With regard to our drivers, about 18 drivers out of 515 were reported to have resigned over the past 10 days; however, First Student has interviewed 192 potential new drivers and expect that about 30% - 40% of these will make it through the final hiring process. As the second largest district in New York State, I commend our transportation department for their extraordinary performance under extraordinary circumstances. Bus drivers have been reminded to crack their windows for better ventilation during good weather and to make sure all riders are wearing masks."

Buffalo Public School District