One common concern heard throughout Ohio this school year is lack of transportation for students. Miami Trace Local Schools is one of the districts struggling with transportation, and several local entities have reached out in attempts to assist.
The shortage of transportation was not caused from low staff, according to Miami Trace Superintendent Kim Pittser.
Pittser explained via email, “we have been blessed here at Miami Trace with a full transportation staff. However, the timing of a multitude of factors has impacted our recent struggle. While COVID did hit our group of drivers hard, we also have several drivers out for other health-related reasons.”
Households in the district have needed to find alternative ways for students to get to school rather than by bus, be patient with bussing changes, or find ways to safely keep students home for the day due to cancelled transportation.
MT Director of Transportation Joni Daniels-Blouse explained what steps the district has taken to lessen the impact of transportation shortages: “our first step was to apply the buddy system. In this system, a bus route is dispersed among other routes, which does delay pick up and/or drop off times for students. Another step used was to consolidate one of our routes. We reassigned students to other routes permanently. Finally, we were forced to cancel a few routes; however, our goal with route cancellations is to communicate in advance so that we can seek parent transport if possible.”
Pittser added, “our parents have been phenomenal during this challenging time. When route cancellations had to be announced, our goal was to do so in advance in hopes that parents could transport if possible, and they did. Approximately 70% of those students affected each day made it to school. Those who were unable to make it received work and had electronic access with staff via email and google classroom. In addition, the day was not counted against their attendance. We are extremely grateful for this understanding and support from our parents and guardians.”
According to the T1 state report the district does annually, Daniels said they typically transport approximately 1,300 students. Although the number varies depending on grade level, the average number of students that can be transported per bus is 77.
“Being the fourth largest land district in Ohio, our buses cover a lot of ground. Every day, we travel to Florida and back in mileage. We have a total of 29 bus routes and four van routes. It takes many hands in the garage and behind the wheels to operate on a daily basis, and we will continue doing all we can to get students to school. We do appreciate everyone’s support,” wrote Daniels.
Daniels explained that she has been in her position for 11 years, and transportation has never been this challenging before.
“In September, we posted for a total of four drivers. So far, we have hired two of the four and are still working on gaining the other two,” wrote Daniels. “Once we have them, and a few of our current drivers return, we should be back to our normal capacity. However, when looking at the bigger picture nationwide, we always have to keep an eye on things.”
Pittser explained, “the calls and contacts received from partners in our community have been multiple, and we are thankful for organizations willing to brainstorm with us and share criteria for driver certification and recruitment. Dr. Tom Bailey (superintendent of Washington Court House City Schools) reached out in a phone call this past Friday as well to offer assistance when possible. Our districts are currently trying to work things out being mindful of contractual obligations. In a district with our travel expectations on the daily, we greatly appreciate this collaboration and support from all.”
Miami Trace begins fall break today — a day earlier than originally scheduled. Today will now be considered a “calamity day.” The board of education has approved up to five calamity days to be used this school year before make-up time will be necessary. Students will not be in session today and Friday, which was already scheduled as a non-school day for fall break.
“It is our hope to have the transportation department back to normal capacity the week of October 18th,” said Pittser.
Reach journalist Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355.