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JCPS and TARC propose plan to reinstate some student busing, keep driver jobs

A yellow school bus is stopped in the road. High school students are boarding. A sunrise in the background.
Jess Clark
Some JCPS magnet and traditional school students could see their transportation reinstated with a new partnership between the district and TARC.

Both TARC and JCPS face problems in serving the city’s transportation needs. Leaders announced a plan Monday to keep TARC jobs and restore some JCPS bus service.

The new plan would mean no drivers with the Transit Authority of River City would lose employment and some Jefferson County Public Schools magnet and traditional students would see reinstituted transportation.

To go into action, it still needs approval from the boards of both organizations.

“I want to reiterate what the mayor said, our goal here is to bring back services to our neediest students, our most disadvantaged students, so they continue to have access to our magnet and traditional programs across this district,” JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said at a press conference Monday.

Pollio did not offer specifics on how the district would identify the “neediest students.”

Under the new plan, the 70 drivers who work JCPS routes will remain TARC employees and receive TARC employee benefits but will receive JCPS wages and be paid by the district.

“From the beginning, my number one priority was to not lay off our bus drivers,” interim TARC director Ozzy Gibson said. “We've accomplished that we're able to keep our TARC drivers under our umbrella but help solve a community problem.”

The proposal comes after nearly a year of transportation woes for both JCPS and TARC.

TARC is facing a $30 million deficit after diminishing American Rescue Plan dollars and declines in ridership. In April, its board of directors approved $34 million in cuts, which meant potential layoffs for drivers and cuts in service.

At the same time, JCPS has continued to work its way through a transportation crisis that began at the start of last school year. In an attempt to alleviate stress on JCPS’ transportation system, its board voted to remove transportation for all but four magnet and traditional schools and to change school start times again.

Mayor Craig Greenberg first mentioned the idea of partnering with JCPS and TARC to help each other during an April press conference.

“I am so proud today, and over the past few weeks, Louisville has shown our strength and our willingness to come together to be bold, and do what it takes to be there for our people across the city,” he said Monday.

Under the plan, TARC drivers will do ridealongs with JCPS drivers for the first week or two of school.

Leaders across organizations stressed that this a temporary solution to a plethora of problems.

“We're gonna need the community to keep these conversations going,” said ATU Local 1447 President Lillian Brents. “You will continue to see us advocate and fight and push for public transportation.”

Louisville Urban League president Lyndon Pryor has been outspoken about his concerns regarding JCPS transportation cuts and how they will impact marginalized students disproportionately.

“When it comes to transportation. We got broken bones. And this is a great big old band-aid that we're putting on it. And it's a good thing,” Pryor said. “But we need to fix these broken bones. And that's going to take creativity, that's going to take innovation, that's going to take us digging in and doing some hard work.”

TARC’s board will vote Friday on the plan, while the Jefferson County Board of Education will vote later this month.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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