First day back to school met with traffic jams, delays

Traffic snarls, parking citations and a few transportation snafus were some of the bumps Hays CISD parents, staff and students experienced as classes began Monday.

Amid the first day hassles, all 20,066 Hays CISD students made it to and from school safely, said Tim Savoy, Hays CISD chief communication officer.

Prior to the start of classes, Hays CISD issued a warning to parents and students that heavy traffic and bus delays, along with busy phone lines, would be expected the first week of school. However, parents attempting to drop their children off at Science Hall Elementary were met with even busier conditions.

Some who dropped their children off at Science Hall Monday were greeted upon leaving with citations, due to leaving their vehicles in what officials said were No Parking Zones.

Jeff Barnett, Kyle Police chief, said he recalled seeing five to seven parking citations for the area around Science Hall Elementary Monday.

“We issue citations any time there is a parking violation,” Barnett said. “In this specific location, those no-parking zones are 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Savoy said parents typically drive their students to school on the first day, but allow them to ride buses as the school year continues.

“Overall, the first day went well,” Savoy said. “Parents should know we expand our ability to answer our phones throughout the day to answer questions about where buses are. We don’t leave until all kids are accounted for.”

Savoy said he only received one email from a parent who was issued a parking citation on the first day and does not recall similar incidents occurring in past years.

Meanwhile, schools within the district experienced delayed bus schedules, causing some students to arrive nearly an hour after the first classes began.

Savoy said some students waited longer than usual to get home due to afternoon delays caused by new bus routes; other issues occurred with new students and elementary school children taking the wrong bus routes.

On Aug. 29, Hays CISD Superintendent Eric Wright sent a letter to parents apologizing for bus transportation woes during the first week. While the district anticipated some “glitches and delays,” complications during the first week were worse than usual. Wright said the method used to calculate the number of eligible bus riders in the district was incorrect.

According to Savoy, 60 percent of Hays CISD students will take the bus this year, allowing more room in the drop-off line and parking lots going forward.

“This is not the fault of our drivers, students, parents or campus staff. It is the problem with our planning,” Wright said.

An additional issue was the district cutting the total number of routes from 163 in 2017 to 146 in 2018, which Wright said was not a budget cutting measure. The district will fix the issues and will add some of the routes that were eliminated.

The motive for the changes was a “well-meaning effort” to reduce the chances of a driver shortage.

“Fewer routes means fewer drivers are needed to cover the routes during a shortage,” Wright said. “Motives for this change were true and altruistic, but it resulted in overcrowding on some buses.”

Wright said the district expects to see fewer and shorter delays as the school year continues.

“I offer you no excuses. I hope this information helps you better understand some of the factors involved in our bus operations. You deserve top quality bus service and we will deliver,” Wright said in his letter.

But for some residents, school traffic added to congestion in areas where construction is ongoing. One such location is the FM 1626 and RM 967 intersection near Buda, which experienced a heavy volume of traffic.

Bo Kidd, Buda Police chief, said officers in his department helped to keep the flow of traffic going in the area despite the congestion.

Moses Leos III contributed to this article

Letter from Superintendent Eric Wright to Hays CISD parents
Dear Hays CISD Family,

We have not lived up to your expectations or the standards we set for ourselves regarding bus transportation this first week of school. I’m emailing you to apologize and to tell you we are going to fix the problems. At the start of each school year, we anticipate some glitches and delays with transportation as people learn new routes and routines. However, this year the complications are worse than usual. This is not the fault of our drivers, students, parents, or campus staff. It is a problem with our planning.

The method we used to calculate the number of eligible bus riders who would actually ride our buses proved incorrect. So, in some cases, we have had more students on routes than can safely fit in the buses. This stops today. We have added additional buses on those routes to accommodate the needed additional seats. The safety of your children is paramount.

We reduced the total number of routes in our district by 17, from 163 last year to 146 this year. This was not a budget cutting measure. It was a well-meaning effort to reduce the chances we would experience a driver shortage like we saw during parts of last school year. Fewer routes means fewer drivers are needed to cover the routes during a shortage. Motives for this change were true and altruistic, but it resulted in overcrowding on some buses. This will be fixed. We will be adding back some of the routes that were eliminated.

All of our buses have air-conditioning. However, our district has a rule that if a bus is delayed and stopped for more than five minutes, we turn off the engine. This affects the cooling power of the air-conditioners. Until we get back into a timely routine, we have relaxed our no-idle rule and we will keep the bus engines on and cold air blowing.

Finally, you can expect better service from us on our timing. You should see fewer and shorter delays each day as we get better at this year’s routine. We use the same buses to run elementary, middle, and high school routes in Hays CISD. If we experience delays at the elementary level, those problems tend to cascade throughout the morning or afternoon and affect the older students the most.

I offer you no excuses. I hope this information helps you better understand some of the factors involved in our bus operations. You deserve top quality bus service and we will deliver. We have one of the hardest working transportation teams in the state. We will get this right and make you proud. Thank you to all who have reached out to me and our team either via email, in person, or on the phone. Your concerns matter and we are here to serve the students of Hays CISD.

Sincerely,

Dr. Eric Wright
Superintendent

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