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Here’s which JCPS magnets might get back some transportation under TARC deal

Children board a school bus.
J. Tyler Franklin
JCPS would prioritize schools at the 7:30 a.m. start time in the restoration of transportation service via TARC drivers.

Some JCPS magnet students might have transportation restored under a TARC deal. Officials say they’re looking at students with a 7:30 a.m. start time in west Louisville.

Some magnet students in west and southwest Jefferson County Public Schools might regain transportation in the fall if the district borrows enough drivers from the Transit Authority of River City (TARC), JCPS officials say.

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio told the Jefferson County Board of Education at its meeting Tuesday that his first priority is providing on-time service to students in their non-magnet or “resides” school. If there are enough TARC employees driving JCPS buses, the next step would be to add back transportation to the “neediest” magnet students who attend schools at the 7:30 a.m. start time, he said.

Because magnets draw students from across the county, routes are often longer and require changing buses at a depot. JCPS head of transportation Marcus Dobbs told the board that the 7:30 a.m. start time is the only one that would give drivers enough time to cycle through a depot before their next run. That’s why only schools at that start time are being considered for possible restoration of service.

Pollio said the district would restore transportation to areas based on demographics, later adding students in west Louisville and southwest Louisville would be top of the list.

“Clearly, District 1 would be our first area to look at,” Pollio said, referring to the district that comprises Louisville’s West End, downtown and Smoketown areas and is represented by Gail Logan Strange.

In April, the Jefferson County Board of Education cut transportation to nearly all magnet school students starting next year, citing a bus driver shortage. But a recent agreement between JCPS and TARC allows the school district to borrow up to 70 TARC drivers and possibly restore some service. Local officials pitched the arrangement as an “opportunity” to prevent layoffs at the cash-strapped city transportation agency and provide drivers for JCPS, which has been unable to hire enough people.

Pollio said the routes could be restored to students who attend magnet and traditional schools, as well as magnet programs and Academies of Louisville.

Full magnet schools and schools with magnet programs and academies that are at the 7:30 a.m. start time under next year’s schedule are:

Louisville Male Traditional High School

Butler Traditional High School

duPont Manual High School

Barret Traditional Middle School

Jefferson County Traditional Middle School

Johnson Traditional Middle School

Atherton High School

Marion C. Moore School

JCPS staff emphasized that whatever the arrangement turns out to be, no service will be added back until at least three weeks into the school year. That’s because the TARC drivers have to train on their routes. A final list of drivers is expected to be handed over to JCPS by July 1.

“TARC is indicating that they have the 70 drivers,” Pollio told the board. “But we obviously have to make sure before we bring to you any recommendation for change in service.”

At least some of those TARC drivers will be used to staff the existing plan for resides schools. According to JCPS Chief Operations Officer Rob Fulk, JCPS is currently short 14 drivers needed to get resides students to school on time reliably under the plan board members approved in April. Fulk said the district may lose even more over the summer, as older drivers announce their retirements.

Pollio told the board that staff will have a “clearer picture” in July, “of where we can add some transportation or bring to you a recommendation.”

While staffing is up in the air, Fulk told the board the transportation department is now ahead of schedule in designing routes. Fulk said 70% of routing is complete and that a new internal routing team was able to “mirror” 65% percent of routes so far. Mirroring is a best practice in which a driver’s morning route is the same as the afternoon route. When the board passed the plan, staff estimated they would only be able to mirror up to 30% of routes.

A new project management position created at the recommendation of an outside auditor is still open, Pollio told LPM News. Pollio said the district hasn’t had enough qualified applicants.

District 5 board member Linda Duncan said after hearing staff’s transportation update she was “very hopeful” about the start of the school year.

“I do feel very positive about all this work and planning that's going on,” she said.

The board was originally scheduled to release and approve Pollio’s annual evaluation Tuesday, but did not take the expected action.

Asked why it was not approved, Pollio said there was “disagreement.”

He said he would be addressing his plans for the future “in the next few weeks.”

Pollio’s current contract runs through June 2025. He received an overall positive evaluation in 2023 and a $74,000 raise. That was a month before the transportation snafu unfolded.

Since then the Louisville NAACP and other community leaders have called for Pollio’s removal.

Also Tuesday, the board approved giving 30 days of paid family leave for all JCPS employees. It’s the first time JCPS employees will have the benefit. The board’s decision follows similar moves by other districts to add the benefit, including Fayette County Public Schools and Oldham County Schools.

The paid parental leave will be available to JCPS employees who welcome a new child through adoption or birth on or after July 1.

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

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