School buses in Alamance County showing up to bus stops late

ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. -- Several school buses in Alamance County are showing up to bus stops nearly two hours late.

Parents say it's happening more often and they're not always notified when it does. Many of them are fed up and want answers from the district.

When Lindsey Tomlinson wakes up every morning, she checks her email. That's because more often than not in October, her daughter's school bus to Elon Elementary School has shown up late.

"The school said that the bus was double routed and the bus would be late," she said.

Tomlinson says the problem came to a head on Monday, Oct. 16, when parents didn't get any notification the bus would arrive late after school. When she called the school, she got a machine recording.

That's when she called the police, who had to show up to Elon Elementary to find out the bus was running late.

"For an hour and 25 minutes, my child was unaccounted for," Tomlinson said. "I mean, no one knew where she was."

Tomlinson says she also called the bus depot and district before her daughter was finally dropped off at her home on Sunset Drrive around 4:30 p.m., nearly two hours after school ends.

"I got infuriated. I got very angry," she added.

Tomlinson said the district said a bus driver called out sick and they had to pull a driver from another route that was already finished up. But then the problem kept persisting.

FOX8 called the Alamance-Burlington School System to find out what's going on. The head of transportation wasn't available for an interview.

An ABSS representative sent us this statement, which reads, "As soon as our zonal bus coordinator recognizes he/she will have a driver shortage, the principal of the school(s) affected works to notify parents. They try to do that the evening before or as far in advance as they know. If a driver is out sick, that can cause last-minute emergency situations and not a lot of advance lead time to notify parents may not be available."

"Right now, there's myself and at least 15 other parents who are angry about that situation," Tomlinson said.

She says she's lucky. Tomlinson is a stay-at-home mom and has now organized a temporary carpool with other families in the neighborhood, but other parents don't have that luxury, particularly for fellow parents with kindergartners.

ABSS policy says parents must wait with their kindergartners at the bus stop, and parents must be present when a kindergartner gets off the bus, or the bus driver will take them back to their elementary school.

"You have to be at the bus stop with that kindergartner," Tomlinson said. "You can't just rely on them to get on and off the bus themselves."

Several kids on that route show up more than an hour late to school. The district says those students won't be marked "tardy," but they're still missing their first chunk of class time.

"She would be missing out on all that, and you can't do that to children," Tomlinson said.

ABSS says the problem comes down to a district-wide bus driver shortage.

The representative added, "We recognized the inconvenience this can cause for parents. ABSS is working to find solutions for our bus driver shortages, just like our surrounding districts. We have increased the hourly rate of pay and combined some custodial and driver positions as a pilot problem to be able to offer full-time employment for some of our hard to staff areas. It continues to be a challenge and we continue to work to be able to notify parents as quickly as we can when we learn of a situation that will result in late arrivals to school or back home in the afternoons."

"These are all things you should have worked out in August," Tomlinson responded.

ABSS representatives say the permanent solution is to hire more bus drivers. The district currently is currently advertising 11 bus driver positions on its website. They encourage anyone who's interested in driving to contact the transportation division.

The district's next bus driver training class, offered by the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicle Division of School Bus and Traffic Safety, will be Nov. 13 to 15.

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