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JCPS may eliminate, consolidate some bus routes to solve transportation issues

A JCPS bus driver heads out of the Detrick Bus Depot to take students to the class.
Jacob Munoz
/
LPM
A JCPS bus driver heads out of the Detrick Bus Depot to take students to class.

The Jefferson County Board of Education outlined plans at its meeting Tuesday to solve Jefferson County Public Schools’ ongoing transportation debacle by the 2024-2025 school year.

The current transportation plan has left JCPS with crowded buses, modified school start times, later student drop-offs and bus driver callouts.

Interim Chief Operations Officer Rob Fulk said the goal of next year’s transportation plan is to have all students home by 6:30 pm. JCPS plans to consolidate or eliminate magnet school transportation to achieve this.

Superintendent Marty Pollio said parents should expect an announcement this week about the transportation updates.

“We're not guaranteeing any transportation other than reside schools, special [education] schools and [alternative schools],” Pollio said. “That doesn't mean we're not doing it. … But we do want families to know that is a possibility before they complete their [school] application process.”

Fulk said the district is considering a “hub” model for magnet school transportation, but not for “reside” schools, special education and alternative schools. This would make magnet school families responsible for dropping off their students at a centralized location like a shopping center. From there, a JCPS bus would take the students to school.

The bus routes for the 2024-2025 school year will be created by a routing team with knowledge of Jefferson County roadways and data technicians, both of whom will train with geographic information systems. This will replace the routing system designed by AlphaRoute, which failed on the first day of school.

“Changing a district’s routing is not something that is done quickly. So we will have to do that internally and do it well,” Fulk said.

Fulk said the district is also looking into new technology for JCPS buses. This would include turn-by-turn navigation for bus drivers and cameras installed to capture any incidents on buses.

JCPS plans to implement a “routing pause period” for all bus drivers. This would be an annual, three-week period where the district stops planning routes at the end of the summer. Fulk said routing plans would continue after the school year begins for any adjustments.

Pollio said balancing the number of routes and drivers is crucial to the plan.

“The only way possible that we will have kids arrive to school on time, and leave school right after school is to have about 40 less routes than we have drivers,” he said. “As long as we have more routes than drivers, we will continue to have delays before and after school.”

Fulk said JCPS will need around 500 drivers for the upcoming school year. JCPS officials reported the district is running 563 bus routes with 574 bus drivers. About 51 bus drivers call out any given day, officials said, with the largest shortage occurring last month during a bus driver “sickout.”

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

Giselle is LPM's breaking news reporter. Email Giselle at grhoden@lpm.org.