HUNTINGTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A Long Island school district was sent scrambling after its bus provider said they can’t take students to school anymore.
The school district says Huntington Coach gave impossibly short notice, and as of next Friday it will no longer operate buses for the Huntington school district.READ MORE: The Aztecs 'Slowly Crush You': CBS Sports' Randy Cross Previews Fresno State-#21 San Diego State, Other Matchups
As of Thursday, dozens of routes will be cut back.
It’s a national problem that’s hitting home for thousands of families, and having a very real impact in Huntington.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reports, the district notified parents Wednesday its bus provider suddenly pulled the plug on much of its service, starting Thursday.
“Completely surprised and blindsided by the communication I received yesterday afternoon,” said Huntington School District Superintendent Jim Polansky. “Obviously we are dealing with a COVID situation that is contributing to this nationwide but the level of notice here… we have been working with them for 62 years. We expected better than 36 hours notice.”
The notice emailed to Huntington families informs them Huntington Coach will cut 42 morning and 34 afternoon routes to and from public and private schools, and that, starting Oct. 8, they’ll abandon contracts with the district altogether.
In an 11th-hour compromise, the company agreed to double back to pick up students on the eliminated routes until next Friday.
“It could be a few minutes for some and hours for others. So it depends on the route,” Polansky said.
Parents Gusoff talked to found it hard to swallow: Yet another sudden pivot in their childcare plans.READ MORE: New York State Trooper Christopher Baldner Charged With Murder In Christmas 2020 Crash In Ulster County That Killed 11-Year-Old
“I can’t even imagine, multiple children families, single moms and what not,” one person said.
“Everything that’s been going on has been last minute. It has been pretty tough,” said another.
“It’s absolutely crazy. They were just getting back to school. Parents are going to be devastated by this,” said another.
Huntington Coach explained in this statement:
We have done our best to maintain the drivers we have, and attract new ones, but the continued lack of qualified applicants and the time needed to get drivers trained, certified and vetted through the New York state and federal background check system have been daunting challenges.
We have been hiring and training drivers at an unprecedented rate, yet still have been treading water at best.
“I think it’s horrible, and I think they had to know, and probably should have let the district know sooner,” said Huntington resident Kelly Peters.
The superintendent says the district is actively and urgently pursuing alternatives trying to avoid a shift back to remote learning.
“This is a national effort, at this point. We work with a transportation consultant and he is actively reaching beyond local, regional, state territory to see if we can get some help,” Polansky said.
New York is working to remove some of the barriers to getting school bus drivers quickly trained and certified, and the pay is up to more than $25 an hour, and but that’s not solving the situation in Huntington.
The company says it was a very difficult business decision to pull out.MORE NEWS: FDNY Planning Big Anti-COVID Vaccine Mandate Demonstration For Thursday Morning Outside Gracie Mansion
Wednesday evening, Sen. James Gaughran said he worked with the governor’s office to pull drivers who will drive Huntington Coach buses to ensure this is no interruption in service for students this week.