Rio Rancho parent raises concerns over delayed school buses

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RIO RANCHO, N.M. – The father of a Rio Rancho elementary student is worried about his daughter’s school bus not showing up on time, and he told KOB 4 it hasn’t just happened once or twice. 

“I’m constantly getting messages from the bus company saying, “Bus 486 is going to be 10 to 20 minutes late,'” Richard Wittie said. 

The concerned parent shared more than a dozen text alerts he has received almost weekly over the past two school years for his eight-year-old’s bus to Puesta Del Sol Elementary. He also said his child sometimes arrives after breakfast is served and class has started, but above all, he is concerned for her safety.

“We shouldn’t be having to worry about our students being left out, abandoned for 15 minutes, especially in an area where we have known child predators and stuff,” Wittie said. “Every moment they’re out there, you never know what’s going to happen.” 

Wittie said he reached out to the Rio Rancho Public School district on multiple occasions. The last response he received was a month ago, and on Wednesday morning the bus was late again. 

“Once in a while, okay, you have an accident, bus breaks down. Fine, you swap it out. That’s understandable, but if it’s on a weekly basis, that doesn’t make sense,” he said. “You want to make sure your children are going to actually make it to school,” he said.

A spokesperson for RRPS responded to KOB 4 with the following statement:

“Late buses are something that we have struggled with and continue to struggle with. This is not a new issue for RRPS and is not unique to Rio Rancho. Many other districts across the state and nation face this exact same problem. We realize this places a burden on students, parents, schools and staff members.

Our ultimate goal is to ensure that students are transported to and from school timely each day. Because of the lack of funding we receive and lack of available drivers, Rio Rancho Public Schools must operate a four-tier bus system—separate high school, middle school and two elementary school routes. This means that each driver runs more than one route multiple times a day.  

In addition, we continue to have a shortage of available drivers. When a position is unfilled or a driver is absent, the transportation department must find drivers to cover the routes. This means that drivers must complete their own assigned routes plus additional routes when needed. In fact, in order to cover the routes each day, qualified and trained office staff from the transportation department often drive buses.  

Puesta del Sol Elementary (PDSE) does not suffer from this issue more than any other school in the district. As far as student breakfasts are concerned, if a bus is late to drop students off at school, the students will still receive breakfast, even if the cafeteria has to reopen. If any students are late to school because of a bus, the front office will always issue a late pass to the affected students. It is not likely that students will miss instructional time due to a late bus.”