COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Students of the state’s largest school district return to the classroom from winter break Wednesday, but the journey to get back to school will look pretty different for thousands.
Columbus City Schools District has completely overhauled the school bus routing system, which could mean a combination of a new bus driver, new routes, and/or new bus stops for nearly all of the district’s students.
On Tuesday, the Columbus City School Board held a meeting where members received a final update from the district’s transportation department.
The transportation changes have been weeks in the making and according to a transportation representative, the holiday break gave the district a chance to complete final run-throughs.
“We know the greatest frustration that parents had was each morning wondering will my child’s bus be just a few minutes late? Will it show up at all?” said Scott Varner, executive director of family engagement for the district. “We think, with these changes, we can make sure our buses are there at the right time all the time they’re supposed to be there.”
In a move considered unprecedented by district leaders, the routes for many of the 38,000 students who ride the district’s busses are changing as students return to class from winter break.
“The driver support teams have reviewed the new routes and they are ready to go,” said Rodney Stufflebean, interim director for the district’s transportation services.
He said the winter break was used to prepare drivers, support teams, and families for the upcoming changes.
“They’ve basically been running dry runs since about Dec. 5 and as we are aware of issues or safety concerns or things of that nature that are brought to our attention by either an email or a parent or a bus driver driving the route, we’ve been able to make that adjustment,” Stufflebean said.
Stufflebean added that his team worked to overcommunicate the upcoming changes to parents, and for those with remaining questions, a call center will be on standby from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. as students return to class.
He also addressed the strides that were recently made toward addressing an issue being experienced not only by CCS but many districts statewide: staffing.
“First and foremost, we now have 512 drivers,” Stufflebean said. “We added a few more over the break.”
The district said it now has 512 drivers for 466 routes.
While Tuesday will be the true test, district leaders are working to emphasize that if parents, even on the day of, have transportation issues, they will work to get those questions answered.
“And to the community, remember, this is like another first day, so tomorrow will be a little bumpy and as long as we are there to support our students, that is really all that matters,” said Columbus City School Board President Jennifer Adair.
In addition to the CCS Transportation Call Center (614-365-5074), the transportation information should be available on the parent portal. School administrators and secretaries will also have access to bus route information.