CINCINNATI -- Amy Main says the Cincinnati Public Schools bus system has lost her children twice since the school year started on Aug. 19.
Main’s 7 and 5-year-old ride the bus from Oakley to Sands Montessori in Mount Washington. She says there have been two instances where neither school officials nor a bus service provider CPS contracts knew where her children were for over an hour.
"For 63 minutes on Friday, neither Cincinnati Public Schools or First Student Bus system could tell me where my 5 or my 7-year-old were," Main said.
Main was among about a dozen parents who said the district’s bus service is unreliable, overcrowded and unsafe at a Monday evening Cincinnati Board of Education meeting.
The bus schedule is "incredibly complicated," Cincinnati Public Schools spokeswoman Lauren Worley said. She said part of the issue is officials had to change routes earlier this month after hundreds of people changed their registration or enrollment past the deadline.
"That means we have to re-route all of those routes as we go on," Worley said.
Main told the school board she needs the district to provide more reliable transportation for her children.
"We're not talking about 13 year olds who would know their way home ... we're talking about a 5-year-old whose biggest excitement all summer was getting on the yellow bus, who is now terrified to get on the bus," Main said.
Worley said CPS, which serves 36,000 families, is the fastest growing district in the state. She said the district is experiencing "growing pains" from increasing by 4,400 students over the last five years.
"That’s not the answer you want to hear, though, when you’re a parent who’s concerned about, 'Is my child safe on the way to school and on the way from school,'" Worley said.
Cincinnati Public Schools contracts with seven bus service providers, including Metro. Metro provides bus service to high schoolers who live more than a mile and a quarter from their school. CPS provides yellow bus service for those who live a mile or more from their school.
"It’s a very large population of people who depend on CPS for transportation," Worley said.
Several people complained about a Metro bus route that was eliminated from the West Side this year.
Julie Wright, whose daughter attends Clark Montessori, said three bus loads of students are being crammed onto two buses.
Mallory Wellbrook, a freshman at Clark Montessori, said eliminating the route has created an overcrowding situation on the buses.
"There’s people that are lapping up, there’s three to four people in two seats, there’s people sitting in places they’re not supposed to be sitting, there’s people in the aisles … it’s becoming a safety issue because there are too many people getting on the bus," Wellbrook said.
Metro officials said they are continuously working with CPS to adjust bus routes and times to accommodate all students and that ridership fluctuates a lot at the beginning of the year.
WCPO has reached out to First Student for comment.
At least one CPS parent told WCPO they attended the board of education meeting to ask questions about the email "error" that resulted in students' bus route information being sent to other families along the same route. Worley previously stated the district's IT team created a patch to fix the bug that created the problem within the program used to generate emails.