Unit 4’s confusing message on bus service sends parents scrambling | Education

CHAMPAIGN — The message from the Champaign School District to an undetermined number of parents was sent at 6:01 a.m. Tuesday:

“Dear Families: This message is to alert you that we do not have driver coverage for your student’s morning bus today. You will need to provide your own transportation for your student. We are sorry for the inconvenience. what it can do to your family.

This gave teachers and parents in the southwest Champaign neighborhood of Stacy Arie 19 minutes notice, as yellow school buses normally arrive there for pickups at 6:20 a.m.

Since her daughter — a Centennial High School junior who normally drives to school — would take a Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District bus if she wasn’t driving, Arie said she wondered if that message meant that the MTD buses weren’t working.

In fact, MTD buses serving school routes were operating as usual on Tuesday, despite the continued shortage of MTD drivers, chief executive Karl Gnadt said.

“We haven’t missed any school trips,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s been difficult, but we prioritize school trips because we have to get the kids to school.”

The Champaign School District did not respond to questions from The News-Gazette on Tuesday about the number of students affected by the unavailability of bus service and the number of families notified.

District spokeswoman Stacey Moore said the message was not sent to all parents and the situation was resolved later in the day Tuesday.

“We apologize for a technical issue this morning that caused a message from Unit 4 Transportation to be inadvertently sent to some families regarding MTD,” she said in an email. “MTD is operating as usual.

“The shortage of bus drivers continues to impact our school district,” she said. “We are constantly re-evaluating bus routes and updating data for the most efficient routes possible to transport our students safely.”

Moore also said the district was short of about 20 bus drivers.

Arie said the email sent to parents never specified which buses weren’t running, nor did the follow-up call she received minutes later delivering the same message.

“The district needs to do a better job of communicating with families,” she said.

Arie, who teaches English as a second language at Centennial, said she’s also worried because she doesn’t know how the bus issues will affect students who may come to school on any given day.

Melvin Z. Madore