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Bus Driver Shortage Throws Wrench Into Start Of School Year For CPS After 73 Drivers Quit

CHICAGO (CBS) -- On the first day for the Chicago Public Schools, bus drivers who are upset with COVID-19 vaccination requirements have thrown a wrench into things.

As CBS 2's Chris Tye reported Monday, the drivers quit – leaving thousands of kids and parents with no choice but to find new ways to get to class.

The district learned of the resignations Friday. On Saturday, they begin notifying families.

On Sunday, plans to pay families $1,000 to get their kids to school this first month took shape. And Monday, day one for the 2021-2022 school year, was a little rocky.

And while the mayor said things may remain rocky for a few days, principals we spoke with say its likely to be longer than that.

"I didn't see no buses," said parent Latrice Edmonds.

Emails to parents from CPS apologized for "inconvenience" as they informed parents that indeed there might not be buses for their kids – and with little notice.

On Friday, 73 contracted CPS bus drivers resigned - leaving 2,100 students without a route.

"It puts you in a bad predicament as a parent," Edmonds said.

Some parents got emotional Monday at the toll just one day of an upset routine cost their family.

"It's not good. It's not good," said Rosanna Rosario, the mother of a student at Frederic Chopin Elementary School, at 2450 W. Rice St. in West Town. "I need the transportation, please."

Rosario begged the district to get busing back for her special needs son, Saul, who is now being walked to and from school by his — upending his routine and her workday.

"It's really, really difficult," Rosario said.

All in all, the transportation issue is a major kink on the road to class.

"We're going to work through these kinks," said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Among the work-throughs are the following a plan wherein families impacted can receive $1,000 from CPS for the first two weeks of school, and $500 the following months to offset transportation costs.

"Right now, we are making this up as we go along," said Principal Eric Dockery of Edgar Allan Poe School, at 10538 S. Langley Ave. in the Pullman community. "Parents can use it however they choose."

Just Monday, the district begun hammering out deals with Lyft and Uber — rideshare companies with which the city partnered to get residents to vaccine sites.

But will CPS ensure that minors in those rideshares are chaperoned by a bus aide or district adult?

"You're a little ahead of us," said Mayor Lightfoot. "As soon as we know what the plan is going to be, we will let you know."

Parents are not required to use Uber or Lyft – they can put the money they're receiving to use any way they want for transportation. That could mean paying an uncle, using it for Chicago Transit Authority fares, or going in on a livery service with neighbors also impacted.

"I am hoping it will be a short-term problem," added Principal Dockery. "But you, know we are open that it might linger for a while."

The city said, "the rush of resignations was likely driven by the vaccination requirements."

Parents reiterated multiple times how it is creating new challenges at the start of a new year.

"Especially for single parent - moms trying to figure it all out," Edmonds said.

What parents want the district to know is that getting back to the traditional way of big yellow school buses will offer a big lifeline — and it can't come soon enough.

"Please, I need the bus come back," Rosario said.

The mayor said there are likely to be some issues these first couple days. She stands behind the policy that led to the resignations - saying she would not want those unvaccinated drivers interacting with young, vulnerable kids.

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