Springfield School Board votes to change bus eligibility for upcoming school year

Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 9:43 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Bus eligibility for Springfield Public Schools students will change this upcoming school year again.

The school board voted to implement a new proposal driven by the district’s shortage of bus drivers. Students attending elementary, intermediate and K-8 schools must live 1.5 miles or more from school to be eligible for transportation. Middle school and high school students must live 2.5 miles or more from school to be eligible.

Deputy Superintendent Dr. John Mulford says these changes help SPS offer transportation to the most significant number of students possible, despite still experiencing staffing issues.

“Our current policy allows for many more students to be eligible,” Mulford says. “We know we’re not going to be able to meet that need for next year so we’re asking you to adjust those eligibility standards.”

Mulford says the district has enough bus drivers to cover the day-to-day routes but it faces staffing shortages when it comes to substitute bus drivers.

”What that means is if we have people absent, our 12 month people are having to drive,” Mulford says.

Parent Rob Villarreal says even though it may be hard for parents, they have to be understanding.

“It’s kind of a catch-22 in a tight labor market,” Villarreal says. “It’s either they’re going to have quality drivers and have difficult times or they’re going to have a lot of under-par drivers. I think they’re doing probably the best they can in this situation.”

Springfield Public Schools is also changing start and dismissal times.

Those changes will allow the school district to accommodate the new bus eligibility guidelines approved.

The three-tier structure will be adjusted as follows:

  • Tier 1: 7:20 a.m.-2:20 p.m.
  • Tier 2: 8:10 a.m.-3:10 p.m.
  • Tier 3: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Schools Assigned to Tiers

  • Tier 1: 20 elementary schools, two K-8 schools and one intermediate school
  • Tier 2: All high schools, ten elementary schools, and early childhood special education center
  • Tier 3: All middle schools and two K-8 schools

The school district told KY3 “the changes in start times are an administrative function implemented to accommodate the new eligibility guidelines.”

Carrie Nelson has two kids at Wanda Gray Elementary School and says this will significantly impact her family.

“I have my kids in dance lessons, swimming lessons and karate lessons all throughout the week,” Nelson says. “The changing of the school time would really impact my family because after the lessons, I’d have to basically feed them dinner and put them right to bed because I’d have to get them up at 6 am to get them here.”

In an email to parents, the school district wrote:

“Reducing the number of students eligible for transportation is necessary due to the continuing bus driver shortage. The new guidelines, coupled with the following revised three-tier structure, make it possible to operate transportation with our anticipated staffing levels.

SPS staff understand that there is not one solution that meets the needs of every family in the district. However, the planned changes for 2022-2023 are intended to benefit the largest number of students given the current reality. The district is committed to regularly revisiting transportation eligibility as workforce conditions improve.”

More information on the transportation update and the schools within each tier can be found here.

The new start times will take effect in August for the 2022-2023 school year.

The school district tells KY3 “as next years routes are finalized, we will confirm every school’s new start time. We don’t expect significant changes from what was proposed two weeks ago, but there may be a few schools that shift from one tier to another.”

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