It was well after 9 p.m. when Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools sent out the word: The last students had been delivered home on school buses.
It was five hours after the last bells had rung on the first day of school, and almost four hours after Superintendent Clayton Wilcox had said the district had hoped to have everyone home by 7 p.m., even with the expected opening-day delays.
“Some delays were experienced, with the last students departing buses just after 8 p.m. this evening,” the district tweeted at around 9:15 p.m.
Neither the district’s Facebook and Twitter feeds nor communications staff offered any details Monday night about what had caused the delays, which schools had the latest drop-offs and how many students were significantly late getting home.
Wilcox had said earlier Monday that 66 driver jobs remained unfilled, but he said supervisors and mechanics with commercial drivers licenses were covering the routes.
At a 5 p.m. news briefing, Wilcox acknowledged bus delays that were compounded by the district’s system of having each bus make three or four runs every morning and afternoon. CMS has staggered start and dismissal bells, which means a bus can make an early run, then head back out to pick up or drop off students for schools on later schedules.
Wilcox said an unspecified number of buses arrived at school an hour or more after school began Monday. He said he hoped to have more details Tuesday.
Well before 7 p.m, parents were starting to get frustrated.
“My students got out of school at 4:15 p.m. and according to the ‘bus app’ they are nowhere near our home at 6:06 p.m.,” tweeted Tamra Jones, a Piedmont Middle School parent. “This is outrageous. Surely, we can do better.”
Piedmont, which dismisses students at 4:15 p.m., is a magnet school, which means students are scattered over a wider area, with buses having to travel longer distances to pick up small clusters of students. Magnet schools traditionally have the longest bus rides. Jones reported that her kids got home around 6:40 p.m.
Wilcox said the delays caused problems getting accurate information out through the Here Comes the Bus app, which is supposed to let parents who have registered their children track the kids’ bus.