BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — For many families across Western New York Wednesday marked the first day back to school.
But it was a bumpy start for some students waiting for school buses to arrive to pick them up.
“Because he kept looking — he wanted his bus and he started crying and shaking,” remarked Karen Dungan, parent.
Dungan described how her 16-year-old son, Robert McFadden, reacted while waiting nearly two hours for his bus to arrive Wednesday.
McFadden is autistic and attends the Summit Academy in Amherst. But because the family lives on the city's east side, they rely on the Buffalo Public School District for transportation.
“I got a hold of the city of Buffalo School District and they told me that there's no bus for that route at this time,” Duncan explained.
Dungan says she is disabled and can't drive.
Her son also experiences seizures when he gets upset.
“His persuasive behaviors — flapping his hands — and I did everything I could to redirect it to something else,” described Dungan.
Buffalo Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash says 30-school bus drivers did not report to work Wednesday causing a shortage.
“The other 480 drivers dropped their children and then they went back and picked up the children who would be late and their parents were informed that there were driver shortage, but not a massive driver shortage — as I said 30 drivers for today,” Cash stated.
But overall Dr. Cash says the district is short 150-bus drivers heading into this school year, so they were forced reduce the number of routes.
"They should have been more prepared - that's my message," Dungan said.
But just miles away from the city of Buffalo, a Williamsville school family also had bus issues.
“But for unknown reason — they just never showed up,” responded Diana Kezerashvili.
The Williamsville school parent met me along Klein Road in Amherst near her home. She says her 13-year-old daughter was never picked for her first day of school at Heim Middle.
Kezerashvili says the district does not know why the bus never arrived.
“Having the answer from them saying well it's the first day— I understand first day — be late— it's okay — not showing up at all — is not okay,” declared Kezerashvili.
The Williamsville mother was at work and could not leave, relying on a neighbor to bring her daughter to school after waiting nearly an hour outside during a morning rain.
“She's excited to go to school. She got her outfit ready. She got ready. She wanted to be at school and here we are — she's completely soaking wet,” reflected Kezerashvili.
A spokesperson for the Williamville School District issued a video message early Wednesday evening to address the transportation issue.
The video features Williamsville Superintendent Dr. Darren Brown-Hall touting the district kicked-off an "awesome" first day of school in the district. But at the end of the video the superintendent briefly address transportation issues, promising it will be fixed.
“Parents we appreciate your patience as we work through our transportation concerns. We’re working diligently with our transportation department to try smooth out some of the transportation concerns with our department. We will update you again on Friday and we look forward to talking to you at that time,” stated Dr. Darren Brown-Hall, superintendent, Williamsville Central School District.
Nationwide there is a shortage of school bus drivers.
Throughout the summer months, many area districts and bus companies were trying to hire drivers, some districts even offering incentives.
Dungan said she was doing to have her son’s respite worker pick him up at school Wednesday afternoon to make sure he wasn’t delayed because he needs to take medicine.
“So what happens tomorrow for you?” Buckley questioned. “I don’t know — I don’t know,” replied Dungan.
Kezerashvili said she wasn’t sure if the bus would be transporting her daughter back home Wednesday afternoon.
She was told by the district that a message would be given to the driver, but the Williamsville mom says she was not feeling confident the problem would be resolved for Thursday.