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CPS Board approves consolidating bus routes, turns down other transportation cuts

Bill Rinehart

The Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education voted Monday to consolidate yellow bus services. That means some students from different schools may have share buses. It's the latest in a growing list of cuts the board says are needed to balance the budget.

CPS is set to lose millions when pandemic-era Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, funding runs out later this year.

Since the beginning of the year, the board has been making cuts and reducing services and programs to balance the budget.

Other reductions that would have moved the district closer to closing the budget gap for the 2024-2025 fiscal year did not receive support Monday.

RELATED: Cincinnati Public gets closer to closing budget gap without merging schools

Board members voted down a proposal that would make fewer students eligible to receive yellow bus transportation and another that would make 7th and 8th graders commute on Metro buses instead of yellow buses.

The board also voted against a staff reduction that would cut the number of school resource coordinators in half.

During public comment at Monday's meeting, multiple people spoke out against the proposed cuts to transportation and resource coordinators, including Abby Friend, a parent from Northside.

Friend encouraged board members to turn down yellow bus cuts, saying it would put a huge strain on families trying to get their kids to school on time.

"This is too much of a burden to put on CPS families," Friend told the board. "These changes deeply impact student safety and attendance. We should be increasing student and family accessibility to transportation, not cutting those services."

The board also cut the number of nurses and made personnel cuts to various central office departments.

RELATED: CPS' proposal to merge schools gets pushback from communities

With the combined approved cuts over the past few months, the board has lowered its expenses by nearly $65 million, but more will have to come to meet the district's budget. So far, several board members have said they're not in favor of more cuts to staff and transportation, and last month, a proposal to merge multiple schools was quickly met with opposition from community members.

The board still needs to cut $15 million.

Board Member Ben Lindy says the district will make some hard decisions in the coming weeks because spending more than the district has simply isn't an option

"At the end of the day, we only have three choices: Either we can accept these recommendations to get us down to a balanced budget, or, option two, we can make other cuts. Other cuts will involve RIFs; other cuts will involve losing staff in CPS. That's option two. I like that option less than these, and I think option three [is] we can bounce checks next year. Those are really the only options," Lindy said.

The board's next meeting is scheduled for April 8.

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