CPS students, parents rally after bus transportation canceled just weeks before start of school year

Stephanie Wade Image
Tuesday, February 6, 2024
CPS students, parents rally downtown over lack of bus transportation
Students and parents showed up at a Chicago protest on Tuesday over a lack of CPS school bus transportation.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An impassioned crowd of protesters took over Daley Plaza on Tuesday.

The group was made up of Chicago Public Schools students whose bus transportation to and from school was canceled just weeks before the start of the school year.

"Everyone was scrambling. The parents were scrambling, calling different bus companies, private bus companies. We were just hysterical," said parent Marissa Lichwick-Glesne.

Lichwick-Glesne's son is among the more than 5,000 students attending magnet and selective enrollment schools whose bus routes were canceled as the district said it has continued to grapple with a severe bus driver shortage.

He is a second-grader at Ted Lenart Regional Gifted Center on the Southeast Side. They, however, live on the Northwest Side, 20 miles away.

"It has been a challenge this year. It's been a struggle and it's been a fight," Lichwick-Glesne said.

Because she has epilepsy, she can't drive her son to school. They are instead forced to take public transportation.

"We take two trains and a bus every day to get to school. It's over two hours, his commute. He's 7 years old," Lichwick-Glesne said.

Advocacy groups have been calling for a transportation allowance for those whose bus routes were canceled.

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"Students and parents are now facing commutes up to five hours per day. Some have resorted to unreliable and potentially unsafe third-party transportation services costing families hundreds of dollars each month," said Hal Woods with Kids First Chicago.

The district has offered families a stipend in the past, but declined to this year because it's not sustainable, CPS said.

"I believe this is indefensible, inexcusable, and unconscionable," Lichwick-Glesne said. "We know what needs to be done, and we know what these kids are going through and what these parents are going through every day to get their kids to school, and we need help. We need relief."

CPS is covering the cost of CTA Ventra cards for students affected while the district works to resolve this issue. They're holding bus driver hiring fairs, increasing pay for its drivers, they said, and promise to give families a timelier update next year.