PERRY TOWNSHIP, Ind. – To address the critical shortage of bus drivers, schools in Perry Township are considering a major redistricting for elementary schools and kindergarten academies. The district is fully staffed with 140 drivers and currently has 102.
“Every day we could have 600 to 1,500 students coming home an hour late because the buses have to take a load home and then they’ll come back and pick up another one from school and bring it back. at home,” he said. Superintendent Chris Sampson said. “Kind of a desperate situation and nobody wants their kids to come home at 5:30 or 6:00 every night.”
Three options were proposed to manage the shortage of drivers. The first is to establish new boundaries for the 11 elementary schools and provide transportation only within the boundaries where students are required to attend school.
The second is to establish these limits, offering bus transport in these areas, but allowing intra-district transfers.
“If parents have the ability to drive their own student to those schools and those schools have the ability to manage those students,” Sampson explained.
The third would not bring changes to the way things currently work, which allows elementary students to choose which school they attend on the west or east side and provides transportation for all students.
Parents we spoke to did not feel the district did enough to investigate the problem or made enough effort to retain or recruit bus drivers.
“Bus driving should be treated as a profession and a career, not just a part-time job that someone is going to do,” said Chad Bussell.
Bussell recalled at the last meeting that district leaders said they had trouble retaining bus drivers because they found student behavior difficult. Bussell fears the proposed changes will only exacerbate the problem, leading to more driver retention issues.
“If you’re trying to cram every little seat, every square meter of the bus, I don’t see how you’re going to retain bus drivers if that’s a problem,” Bussell said.
Samantha Kirk, Jeremiah Grey’s Elementary PTA President, expressed frustration at what she and other parents say is a lack of communication from the administration about these proposed changes.
“There are parents to this day who still don’t know that the redrawing is happening, that the borders across the township are going to be redrawn,” Kirk said.
Kirk said a survey was sent home to students and families who would be affected by the proposals. The district confirmed that 24% of these families responded.
“Of the 25% who were handed over, 60% said they would drive their children to school if it meant keeping them in the same school,” Kirk said. “But, they reject that.”
These proposed changes could mean that students in one school could start lessons at a different time than their siblings.
“So for working parents, again, they don’t have the ability to accurately disseminate information to be able to start daycare,” Kirk said.
Sampson said the administration and board engaged in two school board meetings earlier this year, two PTA events at Jeremiah Gray Elementary and Rosa Parks Elementary, made themselves available for meetings and to respond to emails. and administered the surveys, all in an attempt to communicate possible changes to parents and families.
The board will vote on the proposals at next Monday’s board meeting.
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