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Licensing delays leave hundreds of Stillwater-area students without buses

STILLWATER, Minn. — Delays at Minnesota's licensing bureaus left about 600 Stillwater-area students waiting up to two hours to get home from school Tuesday, Sept. 19.

Kristen Hoheisel, executive director of finance and operations for the district, said in a Wednesday, Sept. 20, email to parents that school officials learned just before the end of the school day that bus contractor Minnesota Central was short 10 buses for the afternoon run. The shortage meant district staff had to reroute buses.

Despite their efforts, two routes that transport about 80 students total were temporarily without buses, meaning those students had to wait for other buses to finish their routes. Other students experienced shorter delays.

David Petersen, regional manager for Minnesota Central, the district's busing contractor, said staff were in the process of updating registrations and putting new buses on the road, but delays at the licensing bureau left some vehicles without proper credentials at the end of the school day. He noted that licensing school buses is a lengthy process that includes a vehicle inspection.

Computer upgrades at the state Driver and Vehicle Services led to long waits this summer for motorists renewing their driver's licenses and vehicle registrations.

Petersen said they were aware of the computer problems but didn't think it would impact Minnesota Central's operations.

"We had (the registrations) that evening," Petersen said. "We just missed it by a couple of hours."

Hoheisel said district leaders were working with Minnesota Central to make sure the problem doesn't happen again. The district has contracted with the company for about a decade.

"We know that families expect their students to arrive home in a reasonable amount of time each day, and when that doesn't occur, it is a serious concern for students and parents alike," Hoheisel's message to parents said. "We sincerely apologize for the worry the delays may have caused your family."

District officials added that the delays had nothing to do with the recent change in school attendance boundaries because of the opening of a new elementary school and the closure of three others.