Columbus City Schools won’t use COTA buses to transport high school students


COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus City Schools is looking to purchase software that will make its bus routes more efficient while forgoing a proposal to use public transit buses to transport some students this school year.

Pending school board approval, the district will spend roughly $326,000 to buy optimized routing software from Dynamic Ideas.

As of now, the district has not made any changes to its current transportation model. A proposal to partner with Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) to help transport students in ninth through 12th grade for the 2021-22 school year was brought up in June, but the idea was tabled when the board asked for additional information.

According to the agenda for Tuesday’s board meeting, the proposal for the software purchase reads, in part:

Columbus City Schools (CCS) has routed over 40,000 students to and from school over the past few years. Due to the unforeseen circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, students were assigned to remote and/or hybrid learning models, which dropped the number of bus drivers required to transport students. Unfortunately, an extended number of drivers did not return to work when CCS announced returning to normal, pre-pandemic planning. Because the current number of drivers needed exceeds the number of active drivers employed, the Office of Transportation is requesting the assistance of Dynamic Ideas to make our routes as efficient as possible in order to transport all eligible students. 

This project’s overarching goal will be to optimize 2021-22 Columbus City Schools bus routes with the intent of reducing the required number of buses as much as possible. If necessary, potential policy changes will be explored, in tandem with district staff, to attempt to further reduce the bus count in an effort to ensure that there are enough drivers to perform the required levels of service. 

The district partnered with COTA in March to offer students eighth through 12th grades free rides on COTA buses as a supplement to the district’s regular school bus service. Those student passes are currently scheduled to end Aug. 25.

According to the district’s transportation director, the district covers 704 routes with 612 active drivers, 10 to 20 percent of who call off on any given day.

Parents have previously criticized the district’s proposed COTA partnership continuing into the coming school year.

The district is scheduled to meet Tuesday. A district spokesperson said that there will be a transportation update at the meeting, but not a transportation presentation.

The first day of school is Aug. 26.

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