ROME, N.Y. (WSYR-TV)– When Rome Superintendent Peter Blake made the difficult decision to keep his students home for the week due to a bus driver shortage, he knew parents wouldn’t be happy.
“They’re right to be frustrated, I’m frustrated too that we can’t get our kids to school,” he said.
But when parents received a district-wide survey asking them if they could transport their kids to and from school or if they still needed to rely on the bus service, they thought it was just for a short period of time.
“Many parents were excited about this survey because we thought okay here’s our chance to get our kids back in the classroom next week, but then at the end of the survey, the question stated would you, are you able to do this for the rest of the year and parents, a lot of the parents closed the survey, they didn’t complete the survey,” Rome parent Emily Wilkinsky said.
But Superintendent Blake said the purpose of the survey was to try and create long-term solutions to the bus driver shortage. The confusion led to only 60% of the parents completing the survey, but he said it was a complete failure.
“It is helpful because we can use that information in the next couple of days to redevelop our routes, take kids off buses that are currently on them if they don’t need to be there, and reduce ridership which ultimately reduces the total number of buses needed,” he said.
Blake is also leaning on state and federal resources to try to find solutions, including a list of eligible drivers circulating around from the Governor’s office.
“We have all of those names, contact information, we’re reaching out to see what can be done there,” he said.
While the district irons out plans for the rest of the school year, Blake feels confident students will be back in the classroom on October 12.
He added that they are hoping to hire more drivers during the week of remote learning and need about 10-15 additional drivers to be comfortable.
If you have a student in the Rome City School District and haven’t filled out the survey, you can do so here.