Huntington schools Superintendent James Polansky said late Wednesday that he was expecting delays from a few minutes to two hours along some district bus routes Thursday after the district’s contractor said it would cut transportation services.

Earlier Wednesday, Polansky said students on dozens of bus routes could be affected. He said the district had received an "unanticipated" email from its transportation provider, Huntington Coach Corp., Tuesday afternoon saying the company would not cover as many as 42 morning and 34 afternoon routes as of Sept. 30 and will cease all busing services in the district after Oct. 8.

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Huntington Coach Corp. told Huntington schools that it will cut bus services starting Thursday and stop providing all services to the district after Oct. 8.

Huntington schools Superintendent James Polansky said late Wednesday that he was expecting delays from a few minutes to two hours along some district bus routes Thursday.

The bus company cited an “unprecedented” driver shortage and state COVID-19 safety mandates as reasons for pulling out of a contract it signed with the district in April.

Huntington schools Superintendent James Polansky said late Wednesday that he was expecting delays from a few minutes to two hours along some district bus routes Thursday.

"Imagine receiving a phone call that your transportation will be cut significantly in less than 36 hours, and in 10 days, you'll lose it altogether," Polansky said Wednesday. "That, I think, speaks for itself."

Polansky couldn’t say how many students would be affected. He said affected families had been notified. The district has about 4,400 students.

There were delays Thursday morning. Some buses didn’t show up and some students arrived to classes late due to the delays, according to parents and school officials.

In response to a Newsday request for an interview Wednesday, Huntington Coach Corp., in an emailed statement, cited an "unprecedented" driver shortage and state COVID-19 safety mandates as reasons for pulling out of a contract it signed with the district in April.

Later Wednesday, Marissa Espinoza, a spokeswoman for State Sen. James Gaughran (D-Northport), said additional bus drivers secured by the governor’s office would be provided to Huntington Coach to use their buses for service Thursday and Friday.

But in a later text, Espinoza said the school district told the senator’s office "they’re going to operate on a delayed schedule because it’s too late for them to adjust" for Thursday. Polansky later reasserted that there would be bus delays Thursday.

Hazel Crampton-Hays, press secretary for Gov. Kathy Hochul, said, "Our office is working with the district and stakeholders to get an assessment of the situation and to help facilitate solutions."

Meanwhile, the Huntington school board has scheduled a special meeting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday to consider suing Huntington Coach "in connection with its failure to provide transportation and/or its breach of contract," according to a draft resolution posted on the district’s website. That meeting will be held at Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School in Huntington Station.

The potential bus service disruptions are the latest sign of trouble as school districts and private bus companies face a widespread driver shortage that has caused persistent delays across Long Island in recent weeks.

The three-year contract the district has with Huntington Coach covers home-to-school transportation, summer programs, field and athletics trips. For the 2021-22 school year, the cost adds up to $11.7 million.

"We have been hiring and training drivers at an unprecedented rate, yet still we have been treading water at best," read the statement emailed by company vice president Brendan Clifford.

On top of the shortage, the company said it’s "facing implementation of new COVID testing/vaccination requirements, with a significant number of drivers poised to possibly walk off the job rather than comply."

Hochul announced earlier this month that unvaccinated school staff, which includes bus drivers, will be required to submit to weekly COVID-19 tests.

Huntington Coach officials said they had to make a difficult decision for which they had no alternative solution.

"We have been providing safe, efficient and cost effective school transportation services for the children of Huntington District for more than 62 years, and intended to do so for many years to come," the statement read. "Unfortunately, the realities of a changing industry and workforce leave us no alternative."

Huntington Coach provides services to several other districts, including Syosset and Manhasset, according to its website. No other district that uses the company’s service would be affected by the action related to Huntington.

Unlike some other districts, Huntington schools do not have an in-house fleet. The district contracted more than 90% of its student transportation to Huntington Coach, the superintendent said. The district has 123 morning routes and 129 afternoon routes for arrival and dismissal pickups, not counting the field and athletic trips that Huntington Coach also is contracted to provide.

While Polansky said he understood that there is an industrywide driver shortage, he said the company’s breach of contract has sent him scrambling for a solution.

"We had no chance to plan for this," the superintendent said. "To find out within such a short window of time that you've got to address this and then replace it altogether, it just does not leave the district with the options that we would have available if we had the proper notice."

Polansky said the district is pursuing "alternatives and all remedies available," including looking for other service providers.

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