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Washington March Disrupts Bus Service in Several Districts

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Last week's Million Man March put the brakes on bus services in some school systems with large percentages of African-American drivers.

Philadelphia, the nation's sixth-largest school district, canceled its bus service altogether. The city has few standby drivers with proper licenses and the knowledge of routes to cover the more than 200 bus drivers who said they were going to Washington for the march, said Paul Hanson, a district spokesman. "The alternates [to get students to school] were parents," he said.

Students who missed school because they attended the march or had no way to get to school received excused absences.

The Arlington County, Va., district scrambled to find alternative transportation for students because a large number of its bus drivers took the day off to participate in the march in neighboring Washington. More than half of the system's bus drivers are black. Drivers volunteered to provide morning service, but there was little afternoon bus service. Parents, the local Red Cross, and PTA members volunteered to make up for the limited service.

"We were impressed by the positive reaction and support from all segments of the community," said Jorge Osterling, the director of community services for the Arlington County schools.

Varied Disruptions

In Detroit, about 125 of the system's 600 bus drivers were absent, forcing the district to assign special-education bus drivers to cover the regular bus routes. After driving the students--who wait on city streets--on the regular routes, those drivers returned to pick up the special-education students, who wait at home.

It was about 10 a.m. before all students reached their schools, according to Steve Wasco, a district spokesman.

"We did anticipate that there might be some absences, and staff met with the drivers last week to survey the numbers, but the actual numbers were significantly higher than anticipated," Mr. Wasco said.

The Boston public schools had only slight delays in morning bus service. "It was a little rocky in the morning, but we were back on schedule in the afternoon," said Philip Jackson, a spokesman in the district's communications office.

Although the Washington suburb of Prince George's County, Md., experienced some driver absences, the day went smoothly, according to Christopher Cason, a schools spokesman.

"We had a good barometer for the impact that the march would have," he said. Mr. Cason estimated that about 80 percent of the school system's students, teachers, and support staff, which includes bus drivers, were at school or on the job.

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