New York school district delays first day of school due to bus driver shortage

Northeast

Yellow School Bus in a District Lot Waiting to Depart for Students VI

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — After three hours of deliberation Sunday, the Rochester City School District Board of Education adjourned with the decision to delay the start of school to Thursday, Sept. 9.

In a press release, the district said, “students in grades Pre-K through 12 will return to school in person, five-days-a-week, as planned. We are still working on this transportation crisis and will provide an update as soon as more information is available.”

The emergency board meeting comes as the district battles a severe bus driver shortage, with just days until the start of a new school year. More than 70 drivers are needed and thousands of students are affected.

RCSD Superintendent Dr. Lesli Myers-Small laid out a proposal that was not voted on in the meeting.

The proposal suggests:

  • Students return in-person if they have the means to do so
  • Students to tune in remotely via Google Classroom if they don’t have accessible transportation
  • Eliminate walker buses at schools 10, 17 and 22

The board says five schools are affected by uncovered routes: Edison, Northwest, Northeast, Early College and Leadership. In addition, 14 routes are are also uncovered but the district did not provide specific names.

Additionally, 32 routes for specialized education are also affected.

Myers-Small says she’s been working with Regional Transit Service to cover routes. The company’s CEO Bill Carpenter, believes it’s something they can help with.

“On Friday I received a call from the governor’s office to see if we could provide additional help,” Carpenter said. “I was able to assure the superintendent last night we are able to cover the schools that don’t have coverage, we are putting a schedule together to make sure that knits together.”

Carpenter says the hope is by Sept. 13, RTS can “go live” with revised routes to cover these schools.  Myers-Small says it’s her hope by then, all students can be back in person.

“More than likely it could be the 13th, so by then, all of those, everyone would be fully back on September 13,” Myers-Small said.

In the meantime, multiple board members are growing frustrated. 

“I anticipated we were going to have some answers, and all I’m hearing is we’re going in circles talking about bus routes and numbers that people definitely should’ve had before they walked into this meeting,” board member Beatriz Lebron said.

“All this, it is very confusing and there’s nothing up in front of us right now, it’s just faces and I’m a very visual person,” board member Amy Maloy said.

One agency says over 20 drivers resigned in the past couple weeks, due to retirement and fear of the delta variant. Recruitment efforts take time, between training, road testing and working with the DMV.

Another meeting is set for Monday evening. The board hopes to have the final decisions in place by then.

Additionally, the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority is holding a special meeting this Tuesday. It will be discussing any possible changes within RTS to help the district amid this crisis.

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