Chicago Public Schools prioritizes transportation for diverse learners amid bus driver shortage

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Monday, July 31, 2023
CPS prioritizes transport for diverse learners amid driver shortage
When does CPS start school? Classes begin in August for Chicago Public Schools, and it appears not everyone will have a ride.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There are only a few beach days left before Chicago Public Schools students must return to class on Aug. 21.

Twin Mason has four kids who attend CPS. Amanda Oxiomita has two. Both mothers said Monday their children do not live within walking distance of their schools.

"Me, I don't have a car, so my kids are going to need buses to take to school," Oxiomita said.

But for their children, buses will likely not be available for the first few weeks. A school bus driver shortage continues to plague school districts nationwide, including CPS.

"To run our operation efficiently, we need about 1,300 drivers. We are a little under half at this juncture," CPS Chief Operating Officer Charles Mayfield said.

Mayfield said on day 1, the school district will only be able to bus 7,100 diverse learners and students living in temporary housing.

"In this case we want to make sure we serve our most vulnerable populations," Mayfield said.

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State law requires school districts to provide transportation for diverse learners whose Individual Education Plans, known as IEPs, request it. If parents missed last Friday's deadline to get transportation for the first day of school, there are other options.

"For our diverse learner families, they can opt in to a financial stipend; that financial stipend is up to $500 a month based on schools attended," Mayfield said.

For the thousands of other students who are not diverse learners or temporarily housed, CPS will offer free CTA Ventra cards for the school year.

Twin Mason is making other plans to get her kids to school.

"Lucky I have friends to take my kids, but then I still have to give them gas money," Mason said.

While they have offered more pay and incentives for drivers, CPS said it will take time to fill the positions.

In addition, CPS is expecting an increase of diverse learners requiring transportation this year, so, it may take a while before all students who need busing will get it.

Besides more pay and incentives, CPS is looking into ways to attract more bus drivers, including working with the state to ease up on CDL requirements and hiring out-of-state drivers.