PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — As the first week of school comes to a close, WPTV is continuing to take a close look at Palm Beach County public school transportation issues.
Leaders in the School District of Palm Beach County said Thursday the first day of school went pretty well. However, several viewers reached out to WPTV, saying they had a much different experience.
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School district leaders said about 85% of buses were on time Wednesday morning for the first day of school. There are 490 routes, so that leaves 74 that were impacted with delays.
But if you had a child on one of those 74 routes, the first day did not go as planned.
Parents are sounding off on the School District of Palm Beach County's Facebook page and all over social media, citing numerous issues including crowded buses, late or missing buses in the morning, and a driver shortage that had some drivers doubling back for more kids.
District leaders said they are working through the issues.
"It hasn’t been as bad as in previous years, but we are transporting 40,000 to 50,000 students a year. So in the scheme of things, it’s definitely a small percentage," said Joseph Sanches, the chief operating officer for school district, who oversees transportation. "But we know that every single child is important. And if that’s your child, you want to make sure your child is taken care of, and we completely understand that."
Some parents, though, didn’t mince words on the school district’s Facebook page.
One of them said, "Bus was an hour late today and no call from school or school district or school transportation... Come on SDPBC you can do better than this."
When it comes to the crowded buses, Sanches encourages parents to use "Register My Ride" on the school district's website, which you can access by clicking here. That’s how the district knows how many students are using the bus.
Sanches said there are still 10,000 to 20,000 kids who are not registered.
"We're going to pick up their child whether they register or not. But what that does by registering is we avoid the overcrowding of the buses," Sanches said.
There are 100 fewer bus routes this year in the School District of Palm Beach County, and that's just one thing Sanches said has helped a smooth start to the school year.
"We also took a real hard look at our routes last year. We started the year with over 660 routes. And this year, by looking at opportunities to consolidate, we are under 500 routes," Sanches said. "That makes a big difference for us. That means that’s 100 less drivers we need to cover our routes."
According to federal regulations, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does not regulate how many people can sit on a school bus seat.
If you have problems with your bus not arriving on time, you can call the School District of Palm Beach County's Transportation Department at 561-357-1110 and someone can help you.