Romunda Harris-Fonville can add her name to the list of parents experiencing issues with school buses in Buffalo this year. A bus driver shortage is causing some students in Buffalo Public Schools to come home two, three or even four hours late on occasion .
For Harris-Fonville, the issue Tuesday morning was the bus ride from home to school for her 13-year-old son Jaidon. According to Harris-Fonville, a First Student representative called her in the morning to inform her no bus driver was available for her son's route and, if she could not take him to school herself, Jaidon would need to wait until after 9:00 a.m. for another driver to pick him up.
First Student owns and operates the school buses through a contract with Buffalo Public Schools.
"Basically, if I didn't have the means of getting him there himself then he was just going to be late and he was going to miss out on parts of his education," a frustrated Harris-Fonville explained.
Jaidon is a seventh grader at P.S. 79 PFC William J. Grabiarz School of Excellence and his school day starts at 8 o'clock, meaning he would've been over an hour late if he waited for the other bus. Harris-Fonville drove him herself, but the unexpected situation meant she was late for work.
"If I needed to be there and my boss didn't want to hear excuses, what would I do?" she said. "If I had to take public transportation and was on a specific schedule tied to that, what would I do? How would I get my child to school? And what are other parents doing who are in that situation?"
First Student did not return a phone call or email Tuesday asking to speak about this growing concern. The company told 7 Eyewitness News in September it is actively training more than 100 driver candidates , but acknowledged the process takes time as drivers must pass background checks and meet other qualifications.
High driver turnover was pointed out by First Student as a major cause of the driver shortage.
Buffalo Public Schools and First Student plan to meet Wednesday to discuss "the driver shortage and overall service" this school year, according to a spokesperson for the district.
According to Larry Scott, president of the Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization, the issue with transportation is "absolutely worse" this year than it has been in the past.
The group asks any parents with concerns to email firstname.lastname@example.org and invites parents to attend its meeting at 9:00 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 13 at the East High School library.
The Buffalo Common Council Education Committee also plans to take up the issue at its meeting Oct. 23.