Families of Montgomery County, Maryland, students will need to make alternate plans again getting kids to and from school, as the school system expects transportation staffing shortage to continue Thursday.
On Wednesday, 75 out of 1,228 morning bus routes and 82 routes were affected due previous staffing shortages and COVID-19-related absences, the school system said in a letter to the community.
School officials are asking families, if they are able, to take their kids to and from school on Thursday.
“If you are unable to transport your child to their school site, please contact your school by calling the office. All student absences due to canceled bus routes will be excused,” Montgomery County Public Schools said.
The school system said that routes that serve students with special needs will be prioritized. It will also use available staff to drive multiple routes serving one school, as well as transportation support staff and supervisors to cover routes.
Montgomery County schools advised families of students to organize carpools or walk in groups after a high number of bus drivers called out sick Wednesday.
Dr. Harshita Saxena has two children, one attends Farquhar Middle School in Olney and one attends Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville.
Her daughter’s morning bus route was operating normally, and her son gets dropped off at school.
However, her daughter texted her midday to say that she thought her afternoon bus might be one of the routes affected by the shortage. Saxena checked the bus against the list that had been posted by the schools in the morning, and found that the afternoon bus was among the some routes affected by bus driver absences and would not be operating.
“It’s just another layer of stress to have to work through at an already difficult time,” Saxena said. She said parents were already concerned about teacher absences and a shortage of substitutes.
Parents contacted the school system’s bus depot to try to find out how long their bus routes might be affected but the absences, Saxena said.
A Montgomery County teacher, who didn’t want to be identified, said that at her school, updates on bus routes — including those that were not going to be operating — were given during the end-of-the-day announcements, about five minutes before classes ended for the day.
Saxena said as of Wednesday night, it wasn’t clear to her how long her older daughter might not have afternoon bus coverage.
Saxena canceled several appointments with patients in order to make sure her daughter could be picked up in the afternoons.
“Luckily it takes a village, and there’s a number of parents who are willing to help out” with carpooling, she said.
The school system said it is working to figure out how this situation happened, and how it can be avoided in the future.
“We recognize the hardship that transportation staffing shortages creates for our families; we thank you for your support as we address this challenge. Your patience and understanding are appreciated as we work through the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic,” MCPS said.
WTOP’s Abigail Constantino contributed to this report.