HISD staffing shortages cause bus delays for CVHS and other students

On September 1 another bus had to pick up students from the High School for Law and Justice when their bus failed to show up.

My-Tran Vo

On September 1 another bus had to pick up students from the High School for Law and Justice when their bus failed to show up.

HISD is planning fewer bus stops and less routes in response to a shortage of drivers. Parents and students worry that this is a move that could exacerbate bus delays.

In a September 7 statement to Eyewitness News, HISD stated: “We are in the process of reviewing existing routes and confirming ridership among eligible students, deleting unused routes and stops, which increases efficiency and decreases both the number of routes and drivers needed. We currently have 769 routes 18 down from the start of the school year. More decreases are expected.”

HISD is facing staffing shortages, not only in terms of bus drivers, but also shortages in teachers across the district. The district is in in the process of evaluating 117 new drivers. But fewer stops and less routes may make students travel farther for their bus stop and cause buses to become more overcrowded.

CVHS is one of the many schools in HISD that has experienced bus delays since the first day of this school year. CVHS students live all around Houston and for most, the school bus is their main source of transportation. But bus delays have interfered with student learning in the first few weeks of school. 

CVHS magnet coordinator Lamia Moumni is also the school’s bus coordinator.

“The first two weeks of school have been very hectic because this is the time where the buses are actually learning the route, the traffic, how many students they need to pick up, any changes, and so on,” said Moumni. 

CVHS sophomore Ellis Choi recalls his transportation schedule during the first week of school. 

“On the first few days of school, the pickup time was set as 7:20 AM, but that time didn’t work out and the bus came later than that. So they ended up switching it to way earlier in the morning, around 6:45 am. I’ve heard other kids with the same route as mine have to be at their stop by around 5:40 am. Our routes seemed to change a lot as well,” Ellis Choi said.

CVHS students walk onto campus after the busses drop them off in the morning
(Photo: Judith Carrizales)

Sometimes, buses did not show up at all.

“On the first day of school, no bus showed up at all. It was supposed to pick us up at 7:20 but then it was around 7:45 and still no bus. My mom had to take my brother and I, plus two other students at the stop to the school just to try and make it on time to school. The next day the bus came, but it was very late and we all ended up late to school,” said Ellis Choi. 

Due to these delays, bus drivers have started assigning their own times and own routes. Most parents aren’t informed since the information comes from the bus driver to the students according to Ellis Choi. HISD isn’t aware of these time changes so they still post the original times which are usually incorrect. 

Many parents, like Sue Choi, a CVHS parent, are struggling to keep up with all these bus issues.

“The call center is very difficult. No one will connect you to the help center and the website doesn’t help either. It just displays the wrong information since the bus drivers make the bus schedule on their own without alerting anyone officially,” said Sue Choi.

Students also encounter communication challenges. According to CVHS sophomore Ritika Nandi, her bus didn’t show up to pick her up, so she called the school to see if they could help.

“CVHS transferred us to other staff members who could help us, but the other staff members never picked up the phone for help,” said Nandi.

It has also been a problem for the parents when kids don’t have a ride to school. Many parents have to change their personal schedules to assure that their kids can get to school.

“I have to go take them and I have to call into work and say that I’m late. The traffic from our neighborhood to the school is very hectic since CVHS is in the busiest part of Houston. I have to move my work schedule around it just to make sure my kids are alright,” said Sue Choi.

CVHS arranges class schedules anticipating problems with the bus.

“It’s never nice to know that you’re late. It’s not your fault, so it’s not against you [and it’s] not going to count against you as long as you sign up at the front desk to show that it was bus problems. That’s also part of the reason why we have SSEP,” said Moumni.

Another problem adding to the bus situation is the new COVID-19 protocols. Due to COVID-19, bus drivers must have a seating chart of all of the students and make sure that there is only one student per seat. Of course, everyone must have a mask on at all times. However, buses are overcrowded and it is difficult to social distance on the bus. 

“For my bus, we can each have our own seat. I try to sit with my brother or by myself when I can, but 90% of the time, students will have to sit with another student and the bus seats are very small so they are very close to each other like shoulder touching close,” said Ellis Choi.

Both parents, students, and schools are hoping that this long-term problem will be solved soon.

“HISD must be more proactive in hiring enough bus drivers and organizing everything before school even starts. They shouldn’t be starting to organize this right now as school starts,” said Sue Choi.