Resolution reached for Huntington schools after school bus scramble

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Thursday, September 30, 2021
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A resolution has been reached for schools in Huntington, Long Island, that were left scrambling to find bus drivers to take students to class.

HUNTINGTON, Suffolk County (WABC) -- A resolution has been reached for schools in Huntington, Long Island, that were left scrambling to find bus drivers to take students to class.

An emergency school board meeting was scheduled for Thursday night to address the sudden school bus crisis in the Huntington Union Free School District in Suffolk County.

The governor's office said they are stepping in to provide additional bus drivers, but the question is when will it begin and since it's only temporary -- school leaders are still trying to come up with a solid solution.

Late Thursday afternoon, the state announced the issue had been resolved after Oct. 8 when the Huntington Coach Corporation ends its contract with the school district.

Officials say the state will provide bus service to students after next week and the superintendent wrote a letter to parents promising there would be no interruption of services until then.

"The route delays experienced today will carry into tomorrow as well, however the company is working to resolve the majority, if not all such delays by the s tart of next week," Superintendent James Polansky said.

This all started unfolding Wednesday when Huntington Coach Corporation, one of the companies that provides service to the district, abruptly canceled all bus service for the district's more than 4,000 students.

Company officials said they don't have enough drivers because of a national shortage, and on top of that, new COVID testing and vaccination mandates are causing employees to walk off the job.

"On top of this unprecedented shortage, we are facing implementation of new COVID testing/vaccination requirements, with a significant number of drivers poised to possibly walk off the job rather than comply," the company said in a statement. "With all this, we will not have enough drivers to cover all our work going forward, and we do not see much improvement in this situation on the near horizon."

"That is totally irresponsible," said NY State Sen. James Gaughran. "Either they are going to fulfil this contract or there are going to be penalties to pay. And we have to figure out a way to get buses and drivers for these kids."

Officials and school district leaders worked frantically Wednesday to find other means of transportation for students in the district.

Gaughran said that emergency bus service was being implemented Thursday in Huntington to ensure that "there is no interruption in service for any students Thursday or Friday," while also imploring the contracted bus company to resume full service.

"I've been working around the clock with the Governor's Office to find a solution, and I'm thrilled that the governor has secured emergency assistance to ensure there is no interruption in service for any students Thursday or Friday," Gaughran said. "I implore Huntington Coach to fulfill their contract and resume full service immediately."

On Thursday morning, dozens of bus routes were dropped, and school leaders found ways for the current drivers to double up.

But the measures came with significant delays. Some students waited more than two hours for their bus. Others' parents dropped them off for the first time.

"I feel bad for people who can't do it," said one parent. "And the alternative would be for my child to be an hour late or more and miss school and have to make up for it."

In a statement released earlier Thursday morning, the bus company said:

"This decision is not made lightly. We have been providing safe, efficient and cost effective school transportation services for the children of Huntington District for more than 62 years, and intended to do so for many years to come. Unfortunately, the realities of a changing industry and workforce leave us no alternative."

Thursday's emergency meeting of the school board will still get underway at 7:30 p.m.

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