Bus drivers, parents frustrated over snow issues

School buses struggled in Wednesday's winter storm

Chains on a school bus in West Linn, Oregon. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Parents in the Portland metro area were frustrated Wednesday night when school buses struggled to get their kids home from school in a snow storm.

One West Linn mom is still looking for answers following what she described as a communication failure for the schools.

Deana says her 11-year-old daughter and 3 other middle school students were dropped off at the intersection of Salamo and Vista Ridge, a mile and a half from her house, without her knowledge. She said driver was also using foul language.

Chris Kemper, Spokesperson for bus contractor First Student, said based on audio and video recordings from the bus, there is no evidence that the driver cursed in front of students.

“We have no indication our driver did anything inappropriate or anything beyond what the driver was trained to do beyond most challenging conditions,” Kemper said.

Kemper also addressed the girl who was allegedly dropped off a mile and a half from her home and said based on the data they have, she chose not to get off at her correct stop.

“There were students that got off at the wrong stop, but the driver stopped at all the appropriate stops,” Kemper said.

Portland Area General Manager for First Student, Shea Tucker, said the bus GPS indicates that the driver initially made a “correct stop” for Deana’s kids at the intersection of Blankenship Road and Debok Road to let a number of kids off.

However, Deana said that intersection is nearly 2 blocks from where her children live. She says that is not the kids’ normal stop and it’s not located on a snow route. She says the driver bypassed the apartments, despite the kids’ objections, and dropped the kids off a mile and a half away at the Vista Ridge location.

Kemper said there may have been additional kids on the bus route that day, adding to the challenges the driver faced.

Drivers who spoke anonymously to KOIN 6 News say one of the problems they faced was that when parents started calling early in the day, the bus contractor, First Student, and the district told them buses would not be running on snow routes. That decision changed around 3 p.m.

Drivers were also told weeks ago not to get out of the bus to apply chains, and that someone from the shop would come help them put chains on. That allegedly changed on the fly as well. Some drivers still needed help, or had missing or inappropriate equipment for the chains, but when they called for help, there were only a few shop techs working and the manager had gone home for the day.

Superintendent Kathy Ludwig is looking into the incident and said the following about the snow route confusion:

When buses were first deployed, we did not believe we needed to use snow routes. Later as we learned the city was closing some streets and weather conditions were progressing more rapidly, First Student and the district knew they were needed. A district-wide list serve announcement of snow routes for middle and high school students was sent at 3:04 p.m. First Student also made every attempt to contact parents of these impacted snow routes.