Troubleshooters: JCPS bus rework contractor struggled in Columbus, Ohio

Columbus city schools switched to a different contractor halfway through the school year
Published: Aug. 10, 2023 at 5:59 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The company behind JCPS’ bus and bell time rework has done similar work for school districts around the country.

However, not all projects have been successful.

AlphaRoute said it can help school districts trim their bus fleets by 10% to 30%.

That’s huge given the driver shortage districts across the nation are facing, but their solutions have run into problems.

“He needs to refine it and not try and build it on the fly,” Columbus City Schools Transportation Director Rodney Stufflebean said. “And now he knows what we need, he may be able to refine that and bring something back to the table.”

Six months after hiring AlphaRoute for a potential three-year $1.5 million contract, a school district in Columbus, Ohio threw in the towel after months of problems. Probably biggest, the district couldn’t make changes to the routing software on its own or quickly.

“At this point, we can’t wait any longer,” Stufflebean said. “We can’t keep beating our head against the brick wall. That’s what we feel like we’re doing.”

The district switched to a previous contractor and had kids on new routes and buses after winter break.

AlphaRoute told WAVE in part, “At this time it’s not yet clear what the root causes were for those issues. But we recognize that the situation was extremely regrettable and likely caused by the significant changes to bus routing which were made necessary by the district’s severe driver shortage.”

In its sales pitch to the district it said it had not seen a district as complex as JCPS in terms of size and number of schools.

JCPS records show it hired AlphaRoute in June two years ago for a $500,000 contract, split between bussing and bell times. Meeting minutes show the contract was not discussed and in fact, was voted on as part of a routine vote where multiple items are approved at the same time.

AlphaRoute uses algorithms, artificial intelligence, based on research conducted by MIT. Boston Public Schools planned to overhaul its system in 2018 but backed off after parents revolted.