Drive down Pike Street in Marietta at almost any time throughout the day, and you might find yourself slamming your hands on the steering wheel in frustration as a result of the slow traffic creeping past construction sites.
But though a motorist might be agitated at the idea of arriving home late or having to cut a lunch break short, Marietta City Schools bus drivers have to endure the same traffic-only with a bus full of students who need to be delivered home after school.
With summertime construction along the Pike Street area and nearby Greene and Seventh Streets, and on Millcreek Road, the very street where the district's bus garage is, bus drivers are anxiously waiting the end of construction season in the hopes of getting back on schedule.
JACKIE RUNION The Marietta Times
Marietta Middle School students load buses Monday afternoon, the first pick-up location that bus drivers make before heading to elementary schools.
"The first day of school we were 10 or 15 minutes late getting them home, but luckily it's gotten better," said bus driver Helen Miller, who makes morning and afternoon runs that include picking up at Phillips Elementary, just off Pike Street. "It got to be a bit of a maze, and they probably shouldn't have done all of it at the same time."
Route coordinator Charlie Brown said the biggest issue with timing has been in the afternoon when buses have to go from the middle and high schools to elementary schools.
"We do a lot of transfers, so it starts when we take middle school and high school kids home," he said. "Schedules are already tight, and drivers haven't been able to reach the elementary schools in time, so once those are late, they get to the elementary schools late and then the kids get home late."
Marietta City Schools busing
Total routes: 22.
Students bused: Average of 2,100 per day.
Elementary-age bus riders: Must live one mile or more from school.
Middle school/high school-age bus riders: Must live two miles or more from school.
For information: 374-6525.
Source: Marietta City Schools.
Mornings are not quite as much of an issue, Brown said, and he expects that issues will lessen as school progresses on.
"It could be worse, and the first day is always a problem, because kids take longer to find their things and find where they're supposed to go," Brown said. "But once they get a hold of everything it'll be smoother."
Afternoon bus drivers make first pick-ups at Marietta High School and Marietta Middle School when class dismisses after 2 p.m., and as traffic delays the trip to Marietta's four elementary schools, teachers have to wait too.
"It's also holding teachers back, because they have to wait outside to help kids on buses after school," Brown said. "They've been so good and we've heard little complaints, but they do have to wait."
Matteo Maochi, 11, takes the bus home from Marietta Middle School on a route that makes stops off Pike Street, and said it can be annoying to sit in traffic.
"It takes me like 15 minutes more, maybe 14, to get home sometimes," he said. "It's annoying and the buses are hot and sweaty."
Officials said much of the Pike Street construction should be complete by the end of August and work in the Seventh and Greene streets areas should be done no later than November. Maochi said he hopes they are right.
"In the winter the buses are cold like they're hot right now, and we don't like to sit here and wait in that either," he said.
Bus driver Linda Maxon also has to get out of Phillips Elementary in traffic.
"Some of the parts of the road are all black because they've covered up the marks, and it can be hard to see, and I know people get mad," she said. "But the first few days of school were the worse, so it should be getting better."
Construction also began recently on Millcreek Road, where the district bus garage is, and traffic on the lightly-traveled street is kept to one lane for a small stretch.
"They've been pretty good at Millcreek, because when a lot of them see a bus they try and move everything out of the way," Miller said. "Others couldn't care less if there is a bus there."
Brown said with some of the last stops made just out of town in places like Stanleyville, students have been getting home shortly after 5 p.m., a little later than scheduled.
"Putnam School, for example, we pull out of there around 4 p.m., but we've been getting there about 10 minutes late, but it's not because of that route, it's because something happened earlier in the day," he said.
Bus driver Joyce Fritsche spends a large portion of her routes on Ohio 7.
"A lot of the schools like the middle school and career center are letting out a few minutes later this year, and that has made it harder for us to stay on time," she said. "But the construction hasn't helped, so when you are 10 minutes late to the first school, you're 10 minutes late to the next, then it builds."
For Caden McKee, 12, getting home by bus these days is not much of an issue, even though his bus does go through parts of the construction areas.
"I don't think we have to go through too much traffic, and I still get home about when I normally would," he said. "It just does not really bother me if I'm a little late."