No major changes planned to shorten JCPS bus routes

Louisville, KY (WAVE) - On August 15, school buses across Jefferson County will hit the road taking thousands of children to the first day of class. JCPS hopes to avoid a repeat of last year, when confusion over routes and long rides plagued the system.

WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Eric Flack is working for you, to find out what changes are being planned to make things better.

Before JCPS can teach your children they have to get them to class. And new superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens now leads a district where that is easier said than done.

"Buses are a way to get students to school to learn, so we want to make sure they are as efficient as possible." Hargens said. She added she needs to look at the data before making any decisions about whether changes are needed.

The data gathered during a WAVE 3 Troubleshooter investigation in February shows plenty of room for improvement. The Troubleshooter department timed three different school bus rides, with travel times ranging from an hour and nine to an hour and nineteen minutes. According to the district's own numbers, last year 1,055 elementary school students rode an hour or more to school each way

But Hargens said her primary focus is on improving test scores, not shorter bus rides. Her only goal is to make sure "that buses run as efficiently as possible."

Even efficient bus rides can last an hour or more under the current student assignment plan, when some students live on the opposite side of town from their schools.

"So those kids are going to be on a bus 60 minutes, 62 minutes, 65 minutes," said JCPS Director of Transportation Rick Caple. "But we hope to reduce that number."

But Caple said a bigger emphasis was placed on shaving time off rides that fall in the 45-60 minute range by moving bus stops and designing more direct routes. Caple said those changes have less impact on the longest bus routes because the distance is simply too hard to overcome.

Caple also said multiple letters have been sent to parents reminding them what bus their child is supposed to be on, to avoid the chaos of last year's first day of school when about 400 students arrived home hours after they were supposed to.

Two principals responsible for getting students on the correct school buses were suspended in the wake of that incident.

JCPS, which says the average elementary school ride time last year was under 30 minutes, won't have ride time data this year until finding out how many students end up riding buses. Caple said that won't be known until school starts.

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