BUFFALO, N.Y. — On Friday, the Operation Sunrise Transportation Team discussed some of the strategies they’re exploring to get students in Buffalo Public Schools to their classrooms.
“We’ve identified a number of potential challenges that we are facing,” said John Gonzalez, associate superintendent of school leadership. “Some of them are well-known because they’re national challenges. Some of them are unique to us here in Buffalo and we’re working through identifying what solutions we can put in place to rectify those challenges.”
One of those challenges is a bus driver shortage. First Student, the employer of the school bus drivers for the district, says they will need about 100 more drivers for the upcoming school year and are actively recruiting.
One solution discussed by the team includes reimbursing parents to transport their children to and from school, paying 58 cents per mile. Other ideas include possibly starting school earlier or have after-school programs run later and consolidating bus routes.
Louis Petrucci, the president of district’s board of education, says they’re’ also discussing solutions for parents who don’t have vehicles.
“How do we serve the single mom with two kids that is forced to make that decision in the morning?” Petrucci said. “My child missed the bus and I’m going to pay that rideshare service a premium to get my child to school, is it worth it if it’s going to take my full shift’s pay to get him to school that day? I’ll just let him stay home that one day, because one day isn’t going to impact him that much. We know that every day is precious when it comes to education. We don’t want parents to face that charge.”
Parent organizations say no one thinks this situation is ideal, but offering different options will allow transportation to the kids that need it. Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization Co-Chair Eve Shippens says employers also have to do their part to help parents.
“A lot of parents can’t make parent teacher conferences because they can’t get nights off work, and so the business community has to be more flexible and understand that parents are still parents, and they need to be flexible when kids are getting to school and from school to make sure that people can still work,” Shippens said.
District Parent Coordinating Council President Edward Speidel doesn’t believe the problem will be solved by September.
“I think this is a problem that will take multiple years to solve,” said Speidel. “Our goal is to try speed it up, you know, try to make a difference as soon as possible.”
Speidel, a parent himself, says he’s all for doing everything possible to allow kids to get to school.
The district has a survey for parents regarding reimbursement to drive their children to school. It closes on Monday.