CHICAGO (CBS) — The excitement to catch the school bus is quickly becoming a nightmare for hundreds of Chicago Public Schools students.
Their buses either do not show up, or arrive after the students are supposed to be in class. And as CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reported Wednesday night, a lack of drivers could be to blame.
It has been a stressful start to the year so far for CPS student Aidan Hughes. For the past two days, his Sunrise bus – which takes him from his home in Beverly to his new, transitional Southside Occupational Academy – has either not shown up or been really late.
“He had to be at school at 9. I got home at 9:30 – the bus was pulling up,” said Aiden’s mother, Mary Fahey-Hughes. “And he was supposed to have been picked up at 8:15.”
The same goes for Aidan’s ride back home. His mother said the busing uncertainty is especially difficult for people like Aidan, who have autism.
“When a child with autism, for example, is expecting the bus to come and then they don’t show up, it’s really heart-wrenching to watch how dysregulating that can be,” Fahey-Hughes said.
Aidan’s bus was late again Thursday morning, showing up 30 minutes behind schedule. CBS 2’s Vi Nguyen tried to talk to the bus driver, but she closed the door.
The busing backlog is not just a South Side problem.
“It’s like, raise your hand if your bus didn’t show up today,” said Laurie Viets.
Viets lives in Portage Park on the Northwest Side. Her son’s bus did not show up Tuesday either, and he also has special needs.
“CPS and the busing companies should all have several months to figure this out,” Viets said.
Viets and Fahey-Hughes, who is also the special ed parent liaison for the Raise Your Hand advocacy group, said they tried to call Sunrise and got nowhere.
They are hearing a bus driver shortage may be partly to blame.
“There are a lot of challenges at the beginning of the year with busing, but this is bigger than what we’ve seen in previous years,” Huges said. “There are bugs to work out the first week, but a bus not showing up for so many people is really a problem.”
CBS 2’s Kozlov spoke with someone who works in CPS’ transportation department, who said they are hearing the same thing and are getting dozens of calls about the issue.
CPS cannot confirm the reports of a shortage because they can’t get a hold of Sunrise either.
A Sunrise spokesperson did not directly address reports of a driver shortage.
“Getting kids to class as safely and efficiently as possible is our number one priority. Unfortunately, operational challenges are common at the beginning of each school year. We understand the families’ frustration and are working with our partners at CPS to resolve the situation as quickly as possible,” spokesman Dave Lundy stated in an email to CBS 2.
In a statement, a CPS spokesperson said:
“As the district works to accommodate the schedules of thousands of new bus riders and routes at the start of the school year, there are occasional instances of delays as the bus routes are being solidified. Providing students with safe and timely transportation is a priority and we sincerely apologize for any delays and thank families for their patience during the first week of school.”