A drive to school program is one step closer to reality, giving parents cash reimbursements if they offer to drive to school rather than have their children be bused as the district grapples with staffing shortages.
Getting kids to school can be a hassle. Usually, that struggle is felt by parents as they attempt to get slow-going kids up and moving. But amid massive school bus driver shortages, it is especially hard for districts to get children to school, which is why Buffalo Public Schools is now considering a proposal to pay parents if they will offer to drive to school.
On Wednesday, the Buffalo Board of Education came one step closer to approving a measure to finance parents that offer to drive their children to school. It would make The Queen City the first in New York to offer such a program. But because of budget limits, only 1,500 families can qualify.
The reimbursement program would redistribute $856,332 of the city’s education budget to pay for the drive to school plan. It would be offered to families that currently utilize buses to transport their children to city schools. Like many major cities, a lot of public school students rely on buses to get to class, so the program won’t likely cover all current students who ride the bus.
The board has yet to come up with a plan for which families will get first access to the drive to school program. It may be handed out on a first come first serve basis, or it may be offered to families below a certain income level at first. But what is now certain, is just how much money parents who utilize the program will receive.
Participating parents can receive 62.5 cents per mile if they agree to drive their children to school. Overall, the goal of this initiative is to alleviate the stress the district faces from bus driver shortages. The hope is that they can consolidate existing bus routes, and possibly even eliminate others altogether.
According to reports from The Buffalo News, the drive to school topic was of great concern to members, given the vast issues the bus driver shortage created during the 2021-2022 school year. Oftentimes, children waited outside in the blistering cold for nearly an hour waiting to be picked up. During the worst times, up to 3,000 kids never got picked up on a given day.
Furthermore, shortages meant that bus routes were much longer during the drive to school. Sometimes, students didn’t get to their school until 10:30 in the morning. Likewise, some didn’t make it home from the bus routes until 8 p.m.
This year, the situation is already shaping up to be just as much of an issue. The district was short at least 100 bus drivers heading up to the beginning of the new school year. Today, the superintendent reports that they are still looking to fill about 40 more slots.
Still, some are skeptical that the drive to school program will alleviate the problem. Some board members pointed out that many city parents don’t have access to a car to get their children to school. But still, others said the district had to at least try looking to other areas which may make the situation better, as the plan now awaits final approval.