New school bus provider brings new problems to Roanoke city schools as new year begins

School buses have been late to both pickup and dropoff students

ROANOKE, Va. – Dozens of parents are worried because school buses aren't arriving on time.

Just two days into the new school year and the new school bus provider for the city of Roanoke is facing scrutiny.

There were some delays Tuesday and some kids may have had issues again Wednesday.

Durham School Service, Roanoke city's school bus operator, says communication and a lack of drivers are some of the issues causing delays in pickup and drop-off times.

Hear more from Durham School Services Vice President John Ziegler on this issue

John Ziegler, the company's vice president, is asking for patience from parents as they continue to work out some of those problems. 

Waiting for transportation on the first day of school was something many parents didn't anticipate. 

"My sons pick up time was supposed to be at 7 o'clock. As of 7:30 we had no communication with Roanoke City and the school bus had not been by his stop," said Jennifer Rheinheimer.

And the afternoon drive home wasn't any better.

"The kids were released at 2:25 in the afternoon. As of 4:45, he was dropped off," said Rheinheimer.

Jennifer Rheinheimer isn't alone in her situation.

Many parents took to social media to complain about the way the new school bus provider is handling the transportation of their children.

"(We) apologize for any inconvenience, distress that we caused anybody," said Ziegler.

He admits that the company needs at least 10 to 15 more drivers.

Some drivers are already covering more than one route. 

"We are at 90 percent and we strive to be at 110 percent," said Ziegler.

As parents tried to call in for answers, many said they were not able to get through.

To fix that problem, Roanoke City Schools are adding more phone lines for parents to call in.

Staff members will be ready to answer questions and concerns faster than they were able to on Monday. 

Ziegler said Durham is committed to fixing the issue. 

"We've made adjustments to schedules and we will continue to adjust as needed with timing and arrivals at schools and pick up times," explained Ziegler.

Durham also stressed they made practice runs the week before school started. Each bus is equipped with a GPS to track the time and location of the bus. 

"Although it looks good on paper, a route with the routing software, once you go run it you may need five more minutes or make adjustments to start times," said Ziegler.

Roanoke City Schools sent out a robocall to parents Wednesday informing the of more possible delays and that they apologize for the inconvenience.

Hear from Roanoke City Deputy Superintendent Dr. Dan Lyons on this issue.

About the Author:

Irisha joined the WSLS news team in January 2017 after spending four years as a reporter in Georgia.