‘They’re never on time’: Dorchester Dist. 2 parents angry about buses as schools slide start times

Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 4:16 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 8, 2022 at 6:35 PM EDT
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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - Dorchester School District Two parents say they were surprised, frustrated and irritated when they learned the district will be pushing back class start times as they deal with a shortage of bus drivers.

Starting on Monday, district middle schools will start class at 8:30 a.m., while high schools will start class at 9:30 a.m.

While start times have changed, dismissal times have not, and elementary schools are not affected by the changes. However, Mathias Hickman, whose 5-year-old has been late several times to class this year, said the change won’t help things.

“It won’t affect my daughter at all because they’ll still have the same number of buses in the morning,” Hickman said. “They’ll still have the same time schedule to get them out to school on time.”

The district said the new start times are to combat ongoing bus delays due to a statewide bus driver shortage. Currently, they have 12 bus driver vacancies in their transportation department.

Parents said the buses have been an issue since the school year began.

“It’s horrible; they’re never on time,” high school parent Jacqui Stewart-Sash said. “My daughter is late to school every day. I get phone calls saying she’s missed first period, but it’s because the bus was late, or she was tardy, or she gets caught in the sweep. It’s just not been a great experience, period.”

Some parents said they have had buses come around 40 minutes later than their scheduled pickup times in recent weeks, leaving them and their loved ones scrambling to make sure their children get to school.

“We have to make sure she gets on the bus, things of that nature,” Stewart-Sash said, “so it’s really confusing, and it just messes up everything, and I’m sure I’m not the only parent or family who feels this way.”

The district sent the following statement on its efforts to address the shortage:

While we have increased bus driver pay, increased recruitment efforts, and changed bus route start times, we need to change school start times for middle school and high school to prevent continued loss of instructional time at the start of the school day. Our number one priority continues to be safely transporting students to school and getting them home at a reasonable time.

While parents prepare to adjust to the new start times, they want the district to quickly put the bus driver shortage in the rear-view mirror.

“I just hope they get it together and that they find some good, responsible bus drivers and do what it takes to keep them, not just get them, but keep them, and give them the respect and the money that they deserve,” Stewart-Sash said.

Some parents said they are hopeful the change is only temporary and school start times can go back to normal soon.