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JCPS might not overhaul bus routes this fall

Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio said recent tweaks are improving the route system more quickly than anticipated, and the district may decide against a total reboot.

In a news conference Wednesday, Pollio said short-term fixes “have improved our efficiency greater than I anticipated from where we were two weeks ago.”

Pollio and other district officials said shortening some of the longest routes as well as making changes at the bus depots and compounds have made the commutes go more smoothly and reduced delays.

The last child was dropped off at 7:13 p.m. Tuesday — several hours earlier than the 9:58 p.m. final drop-off on the disastrous first day of school.

Previously, Pollio said the district was hoping to redesign the routes this fall, possibly by the early October break.

“We're committed to doing that if that's what we need,” Pollio said Wednesday. “But if we can improve the efficiencies that we have in the current system, to the point where, you know, we feel very comfortable, then we wouldn't do a complete overhaul.”

The superintendent said JCPS would have to consult with bus drivers in making the decision.

“We know that they are stretched thin to make these routes,” he said. But he said doing a full overhaul would be “a major challenge, and would require [JCPS] to go through a whole process again.”

Pollio said the district’s current goal is to make pickup and drop-off times predictable for families, even if they’re later than they would like.

“So we can tell a family, ‘This is when the drop-off time that we can provide is, based on the resources that we have,’” Pollio said. “And if a family wants to use that transportation, they can.”

“Obviously, we would encourage them, if that's not something they can do, that they would, you know, use their own transportation,” he said.

The root of the district’s transportation woes is a dire bus driver shortage. JCPS has struggled for the past three years to transport 67,000 students to school with a rapidly dwindling number of drivers.

Pollio said drop-offs after 6:30 p.m. were a “common occurrence” even last year, before the district fully redesigned the route system and bell times with AlphaRoute, a Boston-based tech firm.

“We want to be more efficient than last year. And so even with this new system, our goal is to get obviously before 7 o'clock, the last student dropped off. We think we will get there,” he said.

JCPS officials also announced the release of a new app from Edulog on Wednesday. It allows JCPS families to track the real-time locations of school buses from their smartphones.

Support for this story was provided in part by the Jewish Heritage Fund.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.