Getting students to and from school has been a problem in Penn Hills this year, and some residents waited in line recently to voice their frustrations to the school board.
"When are you going to get it right?" asked former school director Erin Vecchio. "A lady tells me that her daughter hasn't been picked up by the school bus in six days."
Ms. Vecchio's secondhand story was validated by some firsthand accounts. Greg Hatfield of Stoneledge Drive told the board that his son was left without transportation after school one day. "My son goes to St. John's. I got a call at work that there was no bus to pick him up. It's not right to leave an 8-year-old standing in the parking lot with no way home. Fortunately, the principal at the school got a van and drove all the kids home."
"This is a serious problem," Bill McLarnon, director of student services, said later in a phone call. "First Student has been egregiously late. They have either missed or been late on over 100 runs this year."
At the bord meeting, school director Jennifer Burgess-Johnson instructed representatives from First Student to respond.
"We are fully aware that we have disappointed you with some consistency and that has caused aggravation this year," answered Phillip Eades, local general manager for First Student. "We started the year with enough drivers but have struggled with attrition."
About 90 bus runs are made each day, Mr. Eades said. "Our biggest challenge is to keep qualified drivers.."
Several drivers came forward to explain that the design of some routes makes is impossible to be on time, while others explained that student rosters listed stops for students who no longer lived in the district.
Mrs. Burgess-Johnson said she sympathized with the problems, but the transportation company should be held responsible.
"We spoke with First Student months ago. We were told the total number of missed runs would be zero. We pay $5.1 million per year for this service."
Mr. Eades said First Student would continue to work with the district to find a solution.
"If your child is not picked up or the bus is late, call the school district transportation office," Mr. McLarnon said. "We have a direct line to their garage and can get someone dispatched. It also helps us if you send us an email because we can document the time and date of the missed or late service."
Tim Means, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.