COLUMBUS (WCMH) — There’s only one week left until Columbus City Schools is expected to decide on what transportation will look like for students in the fall.
The transportation team is recommending a plan that would include using Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) once again, prompting questions from parents.
The board is considering putting high schoolers — 9 through 12 graders — on COTA instead of the regular yellow bus routes.
“One of my biggest concerns, not being familiar with COTA buses, is how is this going to work and is it going to work for our family,” parent Dana Brown said.
Brown believes there are pros and cons to utilizing COTA, but she has concerns.
“We won’t have that same security of knowing who’s on the bus, having that familiarly with the bus driver, knowing the routes,” she said.
The district posed the idea of public and charter non-public schools utilizing COTA at its last board meeting on June 15 because of a bus driver shortage in the district.
“It would be very difficult to cover 704 routes with 612 active drivers and when you factor in a 10 to 20 percent daily call off rate on any given day, you can see that 612 number drops drastically,” district transportation director Rob Weinheimer previously stated.
COTA currently has an agreement with the district through Aug. 28. Through that agreement, passes were provided to students at no cost.
Between March 15 and May 31, COTA said 622 students used the passes and there were 16,024 trips taken by CCS students during that time.
“If she were to take COTA, she would then have to get off at Morse and Cleveland and then she still has to walk, I mean, blocks,” Shanika Sheppard said of her daughter. “I would say, probably, under a mile.”
Sheppard worries about the location of bus stops. She’s considering letting her daughter drive to school, but there are challenges there as well.
“We may be able to do that, but the average parent might not necessarily be able to do so,” Sheppard said. “Even if we can’t get her a car, then we’re going to be responsible for having to drop her off at school and pick her up after school.”
Both Sheppard and Brown hope more bus drivers are hired to fill the gaps, but if they had to use COTA transportation, they would like to see it dedicated only to students.
“We’ve learned so much during this pandemic and I think if one thing that I would convey to other parents is just give it a chance,” Brown said. “If we have to go that route, let’s work together to make it safe for the kids, to make it normal somewhat for the time being.”
COTA is currently discussing with the district how to get students to school on existing transit lines.
The district is expected to vote on a transportation plan during its June 29 board meeting.
COTA said in a statement, “While nothing is finalized, we are proud of the partnership between COTA and CCS that was formed earlier this year, and we are enthusiastic about the possibilities for this upcoming school year.”