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CPS transportation providers say a lack of bus drivers and supply chain issues are causing students to miss class

Zack Carreon

During a roundtable discussion between Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Iranetta Wright and the district's four transportation providers, the superintendent clarified that it will take time to resolve issues with its busing system.

The two biggest problems facing the school system's transportation providers are a lack of staff and supply chain issues that have limited their fleets.

Joe Eversole, general manager of the district's largest transportation contractor First Student says his company currently operates 72 conventional yellow school buses.

This past year he expected to add to his fleet, but that hasn't happened yet.

"Currently there is a national shortage of the chassis to make those buses," Eversole said. "The buses that we have ordered for this year haven't arrived yet. Our 12 new buses are scheduled to get here in February. I would have hoped to have those back in June or July of last year."

When it comes to hiring bus drivers, the transportation providers say they're trying to draw new employees in with bonuses and free training to receive their commercial driver's licenses.

"[We have a] $2,000 Metro signing bonus," Metro's Chief Operations Officer John Ravasio said.

Ravasio continued by saying, "Not only do we provide the CDL training, we've found great success in training folks to take the written portion of the test before they even go down the road of training for the actual license itself."

Superintendent Wright recognized these issues were not going to resolve themselves immediately and explained how CPS has been dealing with the shortage using stacked bus routes and delayed start times at certain schools to make up for the lack of buses on the road.

"A stacked route means essentially someone is going to be late," Wright said. "One bus picks up the first group, takes that group to school, drops them off, goes back to get another group, and takes that group back to school."

These stacked routes result in some students arriving at school late in the morning and others having later pickup times in the afternoon when school lets out.

Wright also mentioned the school board has expressed interest in the district creating its own small fleet as a long-term solution to the lack of buses available through its vendors, but the superintendent doesn't expect this to happen until 18 to 24 months from now.

In the meantime, Wright encourages parents to let CPS know about problems they are experiencing with its transportation system, so they can attempt to make improvements.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.