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Parents Tell Board of Busing, Student Hardships

‘Our kids are stuck in the middle’ of district’s battle with bus company

By Adam Reinherz
The Tube City Almanac
January 27, 2022
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Transportation remains a source of strife for parents and educators in McKeesport Area School District.

Since September, four bus runs have been canceled on a regular basis, leaving hundreds of students without rides to school.

At Wednesday’s board meeting, school Superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr. said he’s made clear to the bus company that its actions are affecting numerous students.

Holtzman said that during a recent meeting with an Allegheny County judge and representatives of the district’s bus provider, Pennsylvania Coach Lines, reports indicated that 147 buses were canceled this year, disrupting nearly 50,000 rides.

“If you’re frustrated or disgusted or you’re mad at me I get it. I understand. I’ll take whatever responsibility for it,” Holtzman told parents. “Unfortunately, we have no control over the decisions that the bus company was making to not run four buses consistently.”

Representatives of Pennsylvania Coach Lines, who declined to comment prior to publication, have cited driver shortages as reason for the canceled bus runs.

Despite the inability of so many students to receive transportation, Holtzman said a possible solution had been reached between district and bus company representatives.

“The idea is to limit the amount of bus stops so that buses are then available to pick up the routes of the other four buses that are not running at the current time,” Holtzman said.

Before that outcome can be reached, however, a proposal must be sent by the bus company and approved by Allegheny County Judge Arnold Klein.

District solicitor Gary Matta told parents in attendance that Klein is aware of the hardships students face.

“He is very concerned about the safety and health and welfare of the students here,” Matta said.

Holtzman said he expects the situation to be resolved following a proposal from the bus company within the “next day or two.”

But parent Michelle Tedesco isn’t optimistic.

“It's been a battle trying to get our kids the proper education that they need, and you got adults that fight like children,” Tedesco said. “The bus company wants to blame the school board. The school board wants to blame the bus company. Our kids are stuck in the middle and nobody can find common ground.”

“Something needs to give,” Amber Murray, a parent of four children, told school board members. “Our kids are suffering.”

Murray noted that due to the bussing situation her children have not only accumulated dozens of unexcused absences but are experiencing an educational plummet.

“My daughter went from As and Bs to having Fs. That’s not acceptable to me. She wants something in her life. With an F on her report card that’s not going to get her where she wants to be,” Murray said.

Some parents are able to skirt the bussing situation by transporting their children to school, but Murray said she can’t as she leaves for work at 3:30 a.m.

“I can't leave [work] every day. I can't afford to pay people to pick my kids up. Something really needs to be figured out,” she said. “This needs to be addressed and kids need to be the number one priority.”

Holtzman said he was embarrassed to hear Murray’s comments.

“All I’m going to tell you is we’ll make it better and we’ll work at it,” he said. “It’s just been a disgusting experience that has been full of lies and misleading things,” he said.

Moving forward, McKeesport Area School District plans to terminate its contract with Pennsylvania Coach Lines this summer, Holtzman said, and bid out a new contract for next school year.  

Given conversations with other area school leaders, Holtzman told parents he’s confident McKeesport Area School District will have “a good opportunity to get a great company.”

Adam Reinherz is a Pittsburgh-based journalist. This is his first byline for Tube City Almanac. He can be reached at adam.reinherz@gmail.com.

Originally published January 27, 2022.

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