DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Many Dayton Public Schools transportation leaders spoke at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting, calling the first day of school “horrific” for some families. They say some kids were transported to wrong schools or left waiting at bus stops for over two hours.

“Today, kids were going to wrong schools because of hub and group stops and that’s just unacceptable,” said Dayton City Bus Drivers 0627 President Marie Winfrey.

Dayton Public School staff and transportation leaders said their first day back was a complete disaster due to miscommunication and poor preparation. Horizon Science Academy Principal Alyse Pennington said DPS’s current busing system is failing state regulations.

“My buses are arriving up to two hours past the end of the school day,” said Pennington. “Just yesterday, I was at my school at 5 o’clock waiting on the bus, school let out at 2:30. It is the law to transport students within a 30 minute buffer at this moment, Dayton Public Schools is not meeting that.”

Principal Pennington has sent emails to DPS’s transportation since February, warning them of the chaos they’re unfolding as students return and staff return.

“Our bus routes are being changed, parents are not being notified, schools are not being notified,” said Pennington. “My bus drivers are warning me about their buses being emptier than normal after their routes were changed without warning, which parents weren’t told about either.”

However, the Board of Education approved the 2022-to-2023 Bus Stop Amendment. Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said they have to vote on the stop within 10 days of the first day of school, but the hub stops are flexible to change at any time.

“We gave them four days to check routes this year but things change, they may run into a dead end or construction and change those, they change them automatically sometimes on a weekly basis or even day-to-day,” said Superintendent Lolli.

Although President Winfrey said the first day of school did not go as planned, she says every student’s safety is her priority.

“I want to thank the parents and students because we know transportation is an uproar but we want to thank you for allowing us to transport your children safely,” said Winfry. “Please be patient with us until we get these things taken care of correctly.”

Board President Will Smith said the board will be taking action immediately to address transportation concerns.

Superintendent Lolli released the following statement Wednesday on the busing issues:

All complaints made to the Dayton Board of Education are taken seriously and thoroughly investigated. The District would like to clarify several points after a thorough review of the concerns expressed at Tuesday’s meeting.

First, it is not uncommon for students and families to experience transportation issues during the first week of school. This is due to a variety of factors, including students reporting to previous year’s bus stops by mistake, boarding the wrong bus, and delays due to traffic congestion, construction, and prolonged goodbyes between students and parents at bus stops. Some DPS buses also had to be re-routed due to an accident.

This school year came with additional challenges because there was a need to begin transporting 18 non-public schools and an additional Dayton Public School, for a total of 45 schools. The district began the year with 96 routes and 107 drivers, and created group stops for routing efficiency. The average wait time for students was 15-20 minutes on Tuesday, with 45 minutes being the longest wait time. On Wednesday, the average wait time dropped to 10-15 minutes. As noted above, there are many reasons why a student may be accidentally transported to the wrong location. However, when transportation staff are alerted to the issue, they respond immediately and work to ensure the student is safely taken to the correct building.

The Transportation Department communicated to drivers multiple times and in multiple ways throughout the summer to ensure employees were prepared for the upcoming year. Communication was shared via mail, automated phone calls, and emails. Information was also shared during meetings, professional development sessions, and during the two days of practice route runs with tablets. At the union’s request, two additional days of practice route runs were added, for a total of four days. Information was also shared via announcements over bus radios, breakroom monitors, and meetings with union representatives.

Communication with all charter and parochial schools also took place in a variety of ways beginning in April 2022.

In order to ensure a successful start to the school year, it is essential that parents update their addresses, phone number, and email address with the district. Having updated information will ensure students are routed correctly and that parents receive all communication they need. Each year, returned letters and undeliverable phone calls cause problems when trying to communicate routes to parents.

The District considers safely transporting students to and from school in a timely manner a top priority and is confident that the process will become smoother as the week progresses.

Superintendent Lolli