No Greenville Co. school buses again Friday after fleet returns - FOX Carolina 21

No Greenville Co. school buses again Friday after fleet returns with evacuees

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A nursing home resident being evacuated by bus. (Source: GCS) A nursing home resident being evacuated by bus. (Source: GCS)
National Guard soldiers transported by GCS buses. (Source: GCS) National Guard soldiers transported by GCS buses. (Source: GCS)
Bus drivers volunteer to remain in Charleston on Wednesday (Courtesy: Greenville Co. Schools) Bus drivers volunteer to remain in Charleston on Wednesday (Courtesy: Greenville Co. Schools)
Buses return to the Greenville Co. bus lot early Friday morning (FOX Carolina/ Oct. 7, 2016) Buses return to the Greenville Co. bus lot early Friday morning (FOX Carolina/ Oct. 7, 2016)
GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Greenville County Schools said school bus service is canceled again for Friday but schools will be open.

The bus fleet arrived back in Greenville early Friday morning. Since the drivers had been driving throughout the night, school district officials said it would be in the best interest of children's safety to allow those drivers to rest instead of running their routes.

Initially, the governor requested that 280 buses from Greenville County Schools head to the coast on Tuesday to help with evacuations. By Thursday only 100 buses were still needed on the coast.

The school district posted a photo on Thursday praising bus drivers who continued to volunteer to assist in the emergency preparation.

On Tuesday Governor Nikki Haley declared a state of emergency due to Hurricane Matthew's approach, which is projected to impact the coasts of North and South Carolina.

She also urged the evacuation of 1.1 million residents from the S.C. coast. Lane reversals are expected at 3 p.m. on Wednesday on Interstate 26 eastbound to expedite traffic into Columbia.

Haley requested buses from Greenville County Schools assist with evacuations. After finishing their routes on Tuesday, bus drivers will head to the coast to help with the plan.

The district said no buses will run while drivers are helping to evacuate Lowcountry residents. Students who are coded bus riders and couldn't find alternative transportation would be excused from school. All other students will be marked absent if they aren't in class.

Berea, Hillcrest, Mauldin, Southside, Wade Hampton and Riverside High School have all been designated as alternative shelters for those being evacuated if needed.

Below is the district's full statement released on Thursday:

The majority of the Greenville County Schools’ bus fleet and its drivers have not yet been released by South Carolina Emergency Management officials.  The buses are in Charleston County and on stand-by to transport last-minute evacuees. The changing speed and track of the storm have delayed evacuations.

As a result, the district will not be able to provide bus service for students on Friday, October 7.  Students who are coded as bus riders and cannot obtain alternate transportation will be excused; all other students will be marked absent if they are not in attendance. Field trips are also canceled. 

Athletic events will go on as planned Friday night and through the weekend.  Schools will use locally-owned activity buses for transportation.

We are reasonably certain our buses will be returned in time to run normal routes on Monday. Some buses are expected in Greenville County as early as Friday. There is still a great deal of uncertainty. We do not know when our buses will be released, how long the trip back to Greenville will take or the level of exhaustion our drivers may experience.  We must ensure drivers are rested before transporting children. We will keep parents informed in a timely manner so they can plan appropriately. 

We understand this has been a hardship on our drivers who have been asked to serve far longer than expected. We are grateful for their willingness to stay and help those in need.

Today some of our buses transported National Guard soldiers to their assigned posts in the Charleston area. Special needs buses are being used to evacuate nursing home residents and transport them to facilities in the Upstate.

We are also aware of the burden this has put on families who rely on our bus service. We appreciate the efforts that families have made to carpool or find other ways to get their children to school.

Greenville County Schools released an update Thursday on buses scheduled to return to the Upstate:

"150 buses and drivers left North Charleston at 9pm.  In current traffic their estimated return time to Greenville County is 2-3am.

75 more buses will leave at approximately 11pm.  Their estimated return time is 5-6am.

As I stated in my earlier release, these drivers will be on the road all night and have been working in difficult conditions for nearly 48 straight hours.  Most drivers slept on cots or makeshift beds last night.  They will be exhausted upon their return.  For their health and the safety of our bus riding children, we cannot ask them to run their regular routes tomorrow.

We continue to appreciate the understanding of our parents and their willingness to find alternate ways to get their children to school."

Greenville County School officials said they expect buses to run on schedule on Monday.

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