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Muncie schools cancels 2nd day of classes over bus issues

MUNCIE, Ind. (WISH) — Muncie Community Schools will have no school for a second day following a first day that left some students standing at bus stops.

“Muncie Schools will wait until Monday, August 7, to resume classes to give MCS transportation sufficient time to straighten out the issues that were created on Wednesday,” the district said in news release issued Friday afternoon.

Superintendent Steve Baule made the announcement in the release.

“The issues we had Wednesday with our transportation system were unacceptable, and we are working diligently to make sure this situation is not repeated. The safety of our students is our top priority. The situation was unsafe and it is paramount that we correct those issues before we resume school,” Baule said in the release.

Wednesday was very stressful, with all the chaos and confusion, said parents who spoke with WISH-TV.

The district closed several schools at the end of the 2016-2017 school year and performed redistricting. The release said Auxilio, the bus company, and True Consultants, the bus route company, were unfamiliar with the Muncie area and received many incorrect routes.

“To further hamper efforts, many drivers quit days before school started,” the release said.

Muncie said the Indiana Department of Education and other state school districts stepped in to offer assistance.

But at a press conference Thursday afternoon, many questions still lingered about what went wrong. Some parents wonder why after a whole summer off, the bus system was a total fiasco, with some students getting home hours late and others seemingly forgotten.

“I guess I can’t answer that question. I’m the financial guy so all I can tell you is they thought the routes were ready. That’s why they started,” said Steve Wittenauer, who is with Administrative Assistance, the emergency management team steering the school district.

But Wittenauer calls himself “the financial guy,” rather than having the answers about transportation questions. So at a press conference where the bus system was the issue on many parents’ minds, we had to ask, why were we talking to him and not someone specializing in transportation?

“Muncie does not have a transportation person. That is contracted out. If you want to talk to the transportation company, I suggest you contact them.”

So we reached out to Auxilio, the bus company, and no one answered. And we tried to find information on True Consultants, the new company responsible for bus routes, but we couldn’t find contact information for them.

The Indiana School Boards Association represents nearly 300 Hoosier public schools. A representative said she had never heard of a school district shutting its doors because of bus problems.

While the superintendent had a statement released, he did not show up to the press conference. Some parents said they wanted to hear from him. After a board meeting Thursday night, WISH-TV approached him.

He said WISH-TV would have to ask the emergency manager about that question. But remember, the member from the emergency management team admitted Thursday he did not know much about the transportation system.

The school closing down is impacting families. Leslie Grabhorn has two part-time jobs, is a full-time student and the mom of three special needs students. She said she is not going back to work until the buses pick her children up again. The school district hopes that will be Monday but said, if the routes are not fixed by then, the school district will remain closed.

If Grabhorn has to miss more work, it will start affecting her home life.

“It takes away from day care money, food on the table,” she said.

Parents were encouraged to look at the district’s webpage and Facebook for updates. Parents also can call Auxilio at (765) 201-4254 to share concerns, the release said.

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