BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Stacey Love’s six-year-old son Victor was left wandering out front of the Tops Markets on Niagara Street last week, because that’s where the bus dropped him off. It was several blocks away from where they live.
“By himself, in front of a grocery store, where anyone could have taken him. He didn’t know where he was,” said Love.
Luckily, a stranger helped get him home.
“A woman who lives across the street from Tops actually drove him home. When he pulled up to the house was floored,” she said.
The family’s troubles didn’t stop there. She says the bus also failed to show up at the school to take him home. She called First Student and the school and received no response.
“I felt like somebody had kidnapped my child,” Love said. “I thought that he wasn’t on the bus, I thought that something had happened. Like a major car accident or something.”
No-shows and late pick-ups have been common this year with the First Student and the Buffalo Public School District. That’s why the district is asking Governor Kathy Hochul to follow Massachusetts footsteps and to bring in the National Guard.
“I think it’s something that needs to be considered as a short term remedy until First Student can catch up and get more drivers on board,” said Larry Scott School Board Member-at-large.
Scott says many of the drivers quit at the start of the school year and the ones that stayed on sometimes don’t show up to work.
“The major challenge at the start of the year was that 18 drivers resigned and 10 to 15 call-in every day,” said Scott. “So, when that happens those routes are not covered. We have to have other drivers come back and cover those routes. So, you’re talking about picking kids up late or, I’m hearing in some cases kids just not getting picked up at all.”
Governor Kathy Hochul’s office released a statement regarding the issue Thursday:
“Student safety is paramount. Transporting kids to school is outside the current scope of the National Guard. As New York faces the same bus driver shortage facing other states across the nation, we continue to work with all stakeholders to identify practicable potential solutions.” – Spokesperson for the Governor’s Office
The district typically operates with 667 drivers and they started the year short 150 drivers.
“Right now, First Student has shared that they have about 450 applications that have come in since September 1. They’ve interviewed just over 200. They have 25 in training,” said Scott. “So they’re making some progress, but it’s not going to be soon enough to correct this problem. We need it corrected now.”
Angelica Morrison is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.