PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A school bus driver shortage is to blame for a cut in bus routes this upcoming school year within the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
A proposal to have some middle school students at two charter schools in the city take public transportation instead of yellow school buses has many parents up in arms.
A closed meeting was held at the school district’s administrative offices Thursday afternoon to address the issue.
Parents say the thought of 11 and 12-year-olds taking public transportation into the city for more than an hour one way is terrifying.
Under state law, school districts are required to provide transportation for students that live within their boundaries and attend charter, private and parochial schools.
“This is not a solution to ask 11, 12, even 13-year-olds, to be able to handle themselves for an hour and up to an hour and 40-minute ride — both ways,” said Heather Samuel, a parent of a middle-schooler at the Environmental Charter School (ECS).
Next year, many city schools will have staggered start times so school bus drivers can do more routes per day. Additionally, if the proposal from school administrators remains, several hundred seventh and eighth graders attending CAPA downtown and ECS in Garfield would ride Port Authority buses instead of school buses.
Jodi Weisfield, another parent of an ECS middle-schooler, says her daughter would have to catch two buses to get to school. The ride, she says, would be over an hour long.
“Once she’s downtown, she’d have to walk to the Westin William Penn to the corner of Sixth and Smithfield where she would catch her second bus. And then she would take her second bus to Garfield,” Weisfield said.
Both moms say they’re also worried about crossing streets downtown to catch a transfer, as well as the cold, the dark and cars.
“Cars, legally, they need have to stop when students load and unload the bus,” said Weisfield. “They don’t have to do that for PAT buses. There are so many things that could go wrong.”
And Heather Samuel has an added safety concern.
“There will not be the regular bus driver who looks out for them. My son, specifically, has a medical condition which his bus driver is aware of,” Samuel said. “He has a seizure disorder, which he takes meds for, but he also has a rescue med that if something were to happen, he would be cared for appropriately.”
The Port Authority says they will defer to the school district’s decision. A large group of parents and administrators will take up this issue at a school board meeting Monday night.