Local school buses running smoothly, despite some early snags, officials say

Woodstock reported bus delays of 20-30 minutes on Wednesday, but most were resolved by Thursday

Children get off a stopped Woodstock school bus on Sweetwater Drive in Woodstock on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023.

On its first day back from summer break, Woodstock School District 200 on Wednesday saw some buses running up to a half-hour late, a district spokesman said.

There had been “delays of 20 to 30 minutes in some cases,” District 200 spokesman Kevin Lyons said regarding Woodstock’s first-day delays. Despite those handful of delays, school officials by Thursday thought buses were running more smoothly, Lyons said.

“Be patient with new drivers,” he said. “It takes a little bit of time, but we’ll all get there.”

A child gets off a stopped Woodstock school bus on Sweetwater Drive in Woodstock on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023.

Heading into the new academic year, school district officials throughout McHenry County reported various levels of staffing shortages. Nevertheless, those shortages do not seem to have translated into major bus delays so far.

In Louisville, Kentucky, however, Jefferson County Public Schools experienced some children getting home at 10 p.m., according to The Associated Press. And, more than 8,000 students enrolled in Chicago Public Schools won’t have bus service when classes there resume next week, which the district is blaming on a bus driver shortage, Chalkbeat Chicago has reported. The school district only has half the drivers needed for this upcoming school year, Chalkbeat Chicago reported.

School districts in McHenry County have had ongoing bus driver shortages since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local school districts have tried many tactics to alleviate the shortage, including changing school schedules and increasing bus driver pay.

No problems that were as dire as those in Chicago and Louisville have been reported in McHenry County, school officials said, even as they search for additional bus drivers.

Lyons said District 200 has enough drivers “to make it through” and attributed Wednesday’s hiccups to normal issues experienced during the first week of each school year. Still, parents who run into issues with transportation should call the district’s transportation office, Lyons said.

Kari Firak, Crystal Lake School District 47′s communications director, said Thursday that a few parents have called, but most were supportive of the bus drivers.

Its buses are run by Transportation Joint Agreement (TJA), a cooperative between Districts 47 and 155 that has been in place since 1974.

“Overall, these first days of school have run smoothly,” Tracy Hodgson, TJA Transportation director, said. “It’s always an adjustment while drivers, school staff and students adjust to new bus routes. I give credit to our amazing drivers and the whole TJA team.”

McHenry School District 156, which was among the school districts looking to hire bus drivers before the school year, didn’t report any transportation delays or mishaps.

“We feel confident that we have enough buses and drivers to be able to successfully get our students to and from school in a safe manner. The first week is always busy as we fine-tune bus routes,” District 156 spokeswoman Amy Maciaszek said.