The largest school system in Kentucky, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS), closed schools on Thursday and Friday after a “transportation disaster” that left some children on buses and in schools for hours on the first day of school. The superintendent apologized to the students, families, bus drivers and school officials for the unacceptable situation and promised to make adjustments.
New transportation plan backfires
JCPS, which includes Louisville and has 96,000 students, implemented a new transportation plan this year to address the severe bus driver shortage and the new school assignment model. The plan involved shifting the start and end times of schools, changing the bus routes and stops, and using an engineering firm called AlphaRoute to optimize the transportation system.
However, the plan backfired on Wednesday, as many buses were delayed by traffic problems, confusion over routes and stops, and technical issues with AlphaRoute. Some parents reported that their children had to walk long distances to reach their bus stops, or that their buses never showed up. Some children were stuck on buses or in schools until just before 10 p.m., more than five hours after the last dismissal time.
Superintendent apologizes and cancels school
In a video statement posted to social media on Thursday, JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio apologized for the “transportation disaster” and said that canceling school for Thursday and Friday was the hardest decision of his career. He said that he saw some incredible instruction and excitement on the first day of school, but that it was ruined by the transportation debacle.
He said that he was working with AlphaRoute, the bus drivers union, and the school principals to make changes to the transportation plan and ensure a safe ride for every child who needs one. He also thanked the bus drivers, teachers, staff, and families for their patience and understanding.
AlphaRoute acknowledges issues and promises solutions
AlphaRoute, the engineering firm that developed the transportation solution for JCPS, said in a statement that it was working diligently to resolve the issues it experienced on Wednesday. It said that it was not clear what the full range of root causes were for those issues, but that it recognized that the situation was extremely regrettable.
It also said that the issues were likely caused by the significant changes to bus routing that were made necessary by the district’s severe driver shortage. It said that it was committed to working with JCPS to improve the transportation system and provide a better experience for students and families.
Some parents and students unhappy with changes
Some parents and students expressed their frustration and anger over the transportation problems on social media and to local media outlets. They said that they were worried about their children’s safety and well-being, as well as their own work schedules and obligations. They also said that they felt like they were not informed or consulted about the changes to the transportation plan.
Some parents also said that they preferred the old start and end times of schools, which were more convenient for them. They said that they did not see any benefits from the new plan, which was supposed to ease the delays and overcrowding of buses.
Some parents and students happy with changes
However, not all parents and students were unhappy with the changes to the transportation plan. Some parents said that they liked the new start and end times of schools, which worked better for their work schedules. They also said that they understood that there would be some glitches on the first day of school, but that they hoped things would improve soon.
Some students also said that they enjoyed having later start times, especially for high school. They said that they could get more sleep, which helped them with their homework and extracurricular activities. They also said that they were excited about the new school year and hoped that the transportation issues would be resolved quickly.