Robbins: Still some bus issues, but overall ‘smooth’ start to school year

August 16, 2022 | 12:12 am

Updated August 16, 2022 | 12:19 am

Daviess County Public Schools kicked off their school year Monday. | Photo by Ryan Richardson

While there were still some issues with the buses and some middle schoolers still have to use the old building, Superintendent Matt Robbins said overall the first day for Daviess County Public Schools went well, with students and teachers seemingly excited to be back in the classroom.

“We’ve had a really good day,” Robbins said early Monday afternoon. “I guess the operable word has been smooth. Several schools that I have visited, independently of one another, use that term so I’ll repeat that. We’ve had a very smooth day thus far.”

With the first day having been delayed because of new software issues and an ongoing bus driver shortage, transportation was perhaps the biggest question for many families heading into Monday. 

Robbins said while the transportation went pretty well overall, there were a few bus routes that were delayed due to not having enough drivers. Two morning routes and two afternoon routes were affected, with students having to wait upwards of 2 hours for a ride; in both cases, drivers had to “loop back” meaning once they finished their initial route they had to complete a second route.

“Going back to last year, we had that same experience,” Robbins said. “What we try to do, as long as it’s not last minute, is we try to inform the school and ask that the school speak with the parents that would be involved. So if the parents do want to make other arrangements, they have an opportunity to try and do that.”

Students who miss class due to delayed buses are excused because the issue was caused by the district.

Robbins said the delayed routes are caused by a variety of reasons and can last anywhere from a single shift to multiple days.

The driver shortage is not new but has been accentuated over the last year. 

“I don’t recall not having an open bus driver position posted anytime over the last 3-year period. There’s always ongoing postings,” Robbins said.

The good news, he said, is that they’ve had about 10 applications over the last week.

“That’s kind of unusual, because we’re usually begging for one or two,” he said. “We check on a regular basis just to see if there’s any new applicants so we can try to bring them in for an interview and go through the processing part of it.”

The bad news is even if they hire someone now, it takes about 6 weeks before the person can actually start driving because they have to get a CDL passenger license as well as go through state-mandated training for the position. Applicants are paid during their training period.

Robbins said anyone interested in applying to be a bus driver should go to the DCPS website where they have positions posted here.

The other major focus within the district to start the year was DCMS having to return to the old building due to construction not being complete on the new facility. 

It wasn’t the site teachers and staff expected to be at, but they were still all smiles Monday morning as they eagerly greeted their students back. After teachers corralled all the students into the gym, they led a high-energy pep rally to get all the children excited to start the day.

It’s still unclear when the new building will be ready, but Robbins said they have a construction meeting on Wednesday.

He said they are asking to be able to take over temporary occupancy as portions of the building are completed so that they can begin moving some furniture and materials in.

“It’s less that we have to move in a short period of time,” Robbins said. “The teachers and the staff have expressed their desire that they would move a lot of their own stuff. So we’re hopeful that we start gaining temporary occupancy on various sections of the building.”

Robbins said he doesn’t know how long it will take once they are able to switch sites, but is hopeful the move can be done over a weekend.

“We’ll try to make that move as quickly and swiftly as we can,” he said. “We had to bring all the new furniture to the old building because we had cleaned some of that out already to be reused in some of our existing schools. We will need to then move that back to the new school. That’s probably going to be our biggest item to resolve and take care of.”

Overall, Robbins said students, teachers, and staff across the district have shown they are ready to get back to a normal year of school.

“At the end of the day, the kids seem to be very, very excited to be in school. That’s great to see,” he said. “We’re just excited. By all appearances today the kids are delighted to be in school. I’d really like to bottle that up, because we probably could use some of that throughout the school year as time goes on. It’s great to be past the last 2 years we’ve experienced. It feels much more like what we would term as normal school.”

August 16, 2022 | 12:12 am

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