Nearly 2,000 Lake Travis ISD students miss bus due to sign up issue

When buses rolled out Wednesday for the first day of class, it’s estimated 1800 Lake Travis ISD students missed the bus. They didn’t get a ride because their parents missed the deadline to sign them up for one. 

On Thursday, phone calls from angry parents continued to come into the District’s transportation office. Sara Anderson was among those getting grilled and cussed out.

"So I totally understand the frustration. I know this is hard," said Anderson, who is the administrative assistant to the LTISD transportation director. "We do get it, We’re not just brushing them off, and telling them we don’t care, we are trying to help,  trying to make this better."

Parents who contacted FOX 7 blamed their bus crisis on a vaguely worded email sent out August 2nd. Many missed the part in the email that had a warning that parents had to sign up their kids for transportation by August 6th in order for bus routes to be finalized.

"We own it, I own it as communications director, I own the fact that communications could have been better, you bet," said Marco Alvarado.

A computer glitch, according to Alvarado, prevented some parents from recording their registration. The district has found buses for some students, but Alvarado said they have not yet come up with a firm plan on how to get all those who missed the deadline on a bus.

"We don’t want to leave any child without services, we are working with parents on a daily basis, we’re asking them to buy us, give us a little bit of grace, and be patience with us as we look through numbers," said Alvarado.

Options include rerouting buses and reallocating empty seats. Those are possibilities because before the COVID-19 pandemic, a little more than 8000 students signed up for transportation, but only 5200 actually rode a bus. That situation may play out again.

There’s one big hurdle to overcome to solve this problem, a problem that’s not unique to Lake Travis ISD. Like other school districts in Texas they have more buses than people to drive them.

"I’ve got 18 buses, 18 routes that did not roll out of this yard, that means that we were down 18 drivers," said Anderson, who has her CDL and is among a dozen office staffers filling empty driver seats. "We are covering the others, trying to keep them going."

A bus driver recruitment campaign has been launched, bonuses and benefits offered, as well as increasing the hourly pay to $20.40. But even with all that, keeping those they already have is difficult.

"We’ve had a couple drivers over the summer tell us, not comfortable working through the pandemic, I’m gonna have to do something else," said Alvarado.

To fill the gap, several bus routes are making double runs. That has resulted in earlier pick up times and later drop offs . 

The district is also casting a wide net in the attempt to hire bus drivers. They are allowing anyone to come to the LTISD transportation lot off of Hwy 71 and do a free test drive of a school bus. It’s a chance to see if they may like to do the job or simply get an idea of what a bus driver does. Those free test drives are offered Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

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