SPPS superintendent apologizes for school bus delays after storm

The St. Paul Public Schools superintendent is apologizing to families after hundreds of students were stranded on school buses or schools late into the evening due to Monday's snow storm.

SPPS did not cancel school or have early dismissal Monday night. The heavy snowfall caused a mess on the roads throughout the metro area, bringing traffic to a standstill in some areas. Caught up in the traffic included school buses, which meant hundreds students did not get home for hours.

At a press conference Tuesday, school leaders said from 10 p.m. to midnight about 300 children were still stranded on buses or at schools. The last student didn't get home until 12:05 a.m. About 75 students with special needs were also impacted during the delays. In all, it's estimated 10,000 kids arrived home late Monday night.

“An apology is the best place to start and I’m very sorry for what happened yesterday,” said Joe Gothard, St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent.

Gothard said he made the decision to hold a full day of classes at 5 a.m., not knowing so much snow would fall late afternoon.

“We did not anticipate what we saw from 2 p.m. on last night,” said Gothard. “We didn't, we did not anticipate that. We would have made a different decision obviously, if we would have known for that six-hour stretch, the storm would have done, would have dropped that much snow.”

But many parents say communication was also a mess. Some received texts simply saying buses were delayed or stuck with no information on exactly where their children were. Others tried tracking the buses on the school school bus app.

“The bus app is a human application, it is manual,” said Thomas Burr, the district’s director of transportation. “We’ve got an internal GPS system that we use in the office. It’s 75 percent accurate. Our industry isn’t quite there to have a GPS system to turn out to parents. They exist, however, they’re not as good as we need them to be.”

Both Superintendent Gothard and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter apologized for the situation and offered a commitment to work together to prevent it from happening again. They also said they would work to improve communication with families.