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Students adrift due to bus driver strike, parents jump in

Some walked their children for miles across the city, while others borrowed cars, took public buses, or found friends and relatives to help out.

Many parents, most of whom learned about the bus drivers’ strike shortly before the school day was scheduled to begin, were late, miffed, and stressed out as they improvised to get their children to school.

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“This isn’t fair to parents or to kids,” Mohammed Audu, 39, of Roxbury, said after dropping off his 5-year-old daughter about 20 minutes late to the John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Jamaica Plain.

He then had to take his other daughter to school, and she would be even later, which in turn meant he would be late taking his wife to a doctor’s appointment.

“They need to settle their differences, soon,” he said.

With all but 30 of the school system’s 650 buses off the road, Audu’s concerns echoed across Boston, as many parents missed work, some students missed school, and both saw their routines upended.

Parents and students waited for buses that never came. Kim Santiago did not find out about the strike until a police officer passed the stop where she was with her 6-year-old son and explained the situation.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow,” said Santiago, 26, who was also late dropping her son at the JFK School. “It feels like chaos right now.”

At the nearby Mary E. Curley School in Jamaica Plain, Kathy Diaz was finishing a long walk from Roxbury with her 11-year-old son, after scrambling to take her baby to day care early. They arrived about 45 minutes late to the Curley school, where her son missed breakfast. She would have to make the walk back to pick him up in the afternoon.

“I don’t have a car, so we don’t have a lot of other options,” said Diaz, 33, of Roxbury.

She and others said they could not understand why the bus drivers would strike.

“It’s so last minute,” said Lydia Lopez of Dorchester. “It’s not right. What really concerns me are the children who were outside waiting for their buses, and their parents were already at work. It’s just sad.”

Lopez’s children arrived 45 minutes late to the William Monroe Trotter School after they had to hop on a public bus.

Outside the school in Roxbury, Brenda Medina said she had not learned about the strike until her 11-year-old son called her around 7 a.m. from his bus stop, a half hour after his bus should have arrived.

“He said, ‘Mommy, I’ve been standing here waiting for the bus, and there is no bus,’ ” she said.

She gathered her other children, ages 6 and 1, taking her oldest to school in Roslindale, her 6-year-old to first grade in Roxbury, and her 1-year-old to day care. “I ended up packing everyone in PJs in the car,’’ said Medina, who lives in Roxbury. “We had breakfast in the car.”

Not all parents were able to accompany their children on their journey. Some pupils had to branch out on their own.

At the John P. Holland Elementary School in Dorchester, a fifth-grader said she had to take a taxi.

“It made me feel nervous,” said the 10-year-old, whose mother gave her fare so she could get to school on time. “This never happened before.”

Getting children to school was only half the challenge. At the end of the day, they still needed to get home.

Scores of parents gathered outside the William E. Russell Elementary School in Dorchester, where they waited for their children to emerge.

Rocky Caban had to take some time off his job as a truck driver to pick up his 10-year-old daughter. He took a hit to his paycheck, but he was not complaining. “Thankfully, my boss is understanding,” he said.

He was among the few who sympathized with the bus drivers. “I understand where they’re coming from,” said Caban, 44, of Dorchester.

Ana Bastien felt no pity for the drivers, especially after she had to take her baby on two trains and a bus to pick up her 7-year-old daughter at the Russell school.

“What they’re doing is outrageous, crazy, and ridiculous,” she said.

Some parents were forced to skip work to ensure that their children had a way to get home.

Lynn Bennett was starting work when her mother called and said her 6-year-old son’s bus never came. It took her an hour to get back to Dorchester before she could bring him to the Holland.

“I had to take the whole day off from work,” she said. “It didn’t make sense to go back when school gets off at 2 p.m.”

When Maria Depina and her 6-year-old son left the Holland school, she settled him in the back seat of her car, where he explained his understanding of the day’s events.

“The bus broke,” he said.

She corrected him.

“No,” Depina said, “they are on strike.”

Globe correspondent Patrick Rosso contributed to this report. David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com. Follow him @davabel.
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