VANDALIA — It may be close to 90 degrees outside, but Tuesday morning almost 3,100 students return to classrooms in the fall ritual known as Back to School.
Vandalia-Butler City Schools Superintendent Bradley Neavin was upbeat Tuesday after a relatively quiet morning.
“Things are going well,” said Neavin. “I’m fired up – this is my favorite day of the year. This is like new years day to me with the kids back in. We are having a great opening day.”
There were some problems on Tuesday afternoon, however, as students at Demmitt, Helke, and Smith schools were delayed getting home on Tuesday by 20-30 minutes. Mark Barhorst, Director of Human Resources and Operations for the district, used a phone message to relay that information to parents around 4:30 p.m.
Neavin said that the delays in the afternoon were due to student’s unfamiliarity with what bus to get on. He said that he expects that to improve over the next few days as younger students, especially, get familiar with where their bus is parked and what number it is.
“Staff members have a list, and they get that sorted out, but imagine what that’s like with 40 kids,” said Neavin. “These are not unlike issues we have had in previous years, but I understand that some parents are concerned, especially after last year. I take those concerns seriously.”
Notifications sent out on the District’s phone app on Tuesday afternoon said that parents would be getting revised bus pick-up times Tuesday evening in time for Wednesday morning.
Neavin said that there were a few routing issues with school buses, but nothing outside the norm for a first day of school. Some drivers were earlier than anticipated and were asked to loop around again to be certain students weren’t missed.
Neavin said that the difference between this year and last, when First Student was providing transportation, is very different.
“I’m cautiously optimistic, but like I said in the meeting with all the parents, we will trust but verify,” he said. “Our staff has been out at bus stops, checking with parents, seeing how we are doing. What’s different is two-fold. One is that the bus drivers actually drove the routes and practiced them, and secondly, the communication between drivers and dispatchers is much better. It’s a much more professional operation, they (Community Bus Service) get it.”
Community Bus Service staff were calling parents with new pick-up times on Tuesday evening, a move that Neavin said never would have happened with First Student.
“When we told First Student there was a problem and asked for a solution, they weren’t responsive,” said Neavin. “This company has their staff calling parents and working on solutions.”
Another hiccup was snarled traffic near Butler High School due to the continuation of the Dixie Drive project and the library construction. On Tuesday, Vandalia Director of Public Service Rob Cron estimated that the Dixie Drive widening project should be completed in three weeks and the new driveway completed approximately a week after, weather permitting.
“That gravel driveway is a bit of an issue,” said Neavin. “The library held to their word and had it ready to go, but because of the delay on the Dixie project due to the weather that meant ODOT wouldn’t allow us to get the curb cut in before school started. The anticipation is that once the Dixie project is done in the next few weeks that curb cut will get in and it will be much better.”
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.