ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Due to a bus driver shortage, the Rochester City School District announced Monday that it would be eliminating the walker-bus program for students at three schools who reside within 1.5 miles of the school.
Students impacted live within the 1.5 mile radius of:
- Dr. Walter Cooper Academy School No. 10
- Enrico Fermi School No. 17
- Abraham Lincoln School No. 22
In a letter to sent to families Monday, RCSD Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small wrote, in part:
“Last week, we were notified that our bus providers do not have enough drivers to transport all of our students to and from school. We are now faced with a significant crisis, which has forced us to make several adjustments that will impact the start of the school year.
One immediate solution the RCSD is implementing is to eliminate transportation for students who participate in the Walker-Bus Program and live within 1.5 miles of their school. Our records indicate that your child’s school is within a 1.5-mile radius of your home. Therefore, the District will no longer provide transportation for your child to and from school beginning Thursday, September 9. This decision was made after careful consideration of all our possible options.
As you may be aware, there is a serious shortage of bus drivers nationwide and in our community. We have made every effort to resolve this situation, including recruitment and retention strategies, and changing the start and dismissal times at many of our schools.
We understand that this may cause a significant inconvenience, and we sincerely apologize for the late notice. Thank you for your understanding, patience, and flexibility, as we continue to navigate the effects of this pandemic.”
The ongoing bus driver shortage already forced district officials to delay the start of the school year, and has officials considering a remote learning model for high schoolers as the district continues to navigate the transportation issue.
According to the superintendent’s draft-plans, students who are unable to work out transportation for the first few weeks of school will tune-in remotely.
Students in specialized learning are an exception to that, but 32 routes specific to special education are uncovered as of Sunday night.
The CEO for Regional Transit Service says he’s had multiple conversations with the superintendent on covering these routes, and believes it can be done. He says they’re working on configuring schedules, and are meeting Tuesday to discuss changes.
For Jasmine Holliman, this transportation crisis sparked an idea. She says inspiration came from her ancestors, who organized ride shares during the Montgomery Bus Boycott ignited by Rosa Parks.
“I thought, why don’t we try this again and see if we can get this together and bring our community together,” said Holliman.
They created Bus Stop Roc, where parents can sign up and help transport kids to school.
Organizer Cheriese Bufis says they’re even working with local day cares to borrow vans that can fit up to 20 students.
“We take care of us, that is the village concept, we’ve gotten so far away from it,” she said. “We have a crisis but we can take care of each other, we’re here for each other.”
Bus Stop Roc is taking donations that will go towards stipends, gas cards, masks, hand sanitizer and background checks for drivers. If you’re interested in donating, or becoming a driver, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elsewhere, local organizations are also pitching in to do what they can.
Conkey Cruisers is a community-based organization that have offered free bicycles to kids in Rochester for almost ten years. With a transportation crisis in the district, they say they have the resources that could help.
Theresa Bowick founded Conkey Cruisers out of her desire to make the community a better place. On Sunday, community members donated brand new bikes that await the hands of RCSD students.
“We’ve reached out to a number of members on the board, drafted a letter to the superintendent asking how can we be of best support to you, we want to help we don’t want to hurt,” Bowick said. “I got so many phone calls and emails [from people who wanted to donate].This reminds me of the great community that I live in.”
To help support families impacted by the delay of the school year, four R-Centers in the City of Rochester will be open extended hours Wednesday. The following locations will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday:
- Adams St. R-Center, 85 Adams St., 14608
- Edgerton R-Center, 41 Backus St., 14608
- Thomas P. Ryan R-Center, 530 Webster Ave., 14609
- Trenton & Pamela Jackson R-Center (Clinton-Baden), 485 N. Clinton Ave., 14605
Officials say all R-Centers will return to normal after school hours when all RCSD schools reopen. More information on city R-Centers can be found online.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.