Update May 4, 2023
At the May 4 Board of Education meeting, district administration provided an update on the transportation interventions that will be implemented for the 2023-24 school year. While the interventions below will provide temporary solutions for the 2023-24 school year, the district will continue to work on long-term solutions, such as a three-tier bus schedule, starting early next fall. The changes to transportation services for the 2023-24 school year include:
- Eliminate payride transportation services for middle and high school students.
- Transition to payride service for 21st Century Programs/OATC/Mill Creek Campus.
- Eliminate safety variances where improvements to walking/biking accessibility have been completed or where a walkable path to school, including one or more of the following, is available: crosswalks, stop signs, traffic lights and/or a city pedestrian crossing.
- Establish minimum route ridership for elementary payride routes.
- Limitations on field trip requests per day.
- Maintain standard safety capacities.
- Updates to Policy ED.
- Updates to procedure.
Update April 5, 2023
Over the past several months, we have undergone many difficult conversations to solve our current issues with transportation services and access to educational opportunities for all students.We have heard your feedback and appreciate all who have taken the time to voice their input and participate in the process through surveys, the bell schedule committee, or feedback sent through our website and email. As a district, we know that change is hard. This has been a challenging conversation, as it impacts us all differently, and we recognize that our families, staff and community are not yet ready to move forward with this level of systemic change.
Originally, district administration was scheduled to propose a final bell schedule to the Board of Education for their vote at tomorrow night’s regularly scheduled meeting. However, we will not be recommending a new bell schedule for the 2023-24 school year.
Tomorrow night’s Board of Education transportation agenda item will not include a recommendation for a change to the bell schedule, and will focus on previously-discussed interventions for next school year that will need to take place.These interventions may include:
- Continued and/or increased rolling transportation blackouts
- Reduction and/or elimination of safety variances in transportation
- Reduction and/or elimination of payride transportation services
- Adjustments to 21st Century Academy transportation services
- Bus stop consolidation
- Further reductions in field trip availability
- Continued early dismissal and missed class time for athletic and activity events
Please know that our district leadership, Board of Education and the superintendent have always recognized that any solution to our transportation service challenges will directly impact our students, staff, and families. Unfortunately, we are in a position where tough decisions will have to be made.
In the upcoming weeks, we will provide more information on the specific interventions that will be implemented for the 2023-2024 school year. Thank you for your continued cooperation, support and patience.
Beginning in December 2022, the district embarked on an important process to study a change to school start/end times for the 2023-24 school year to help alleviate significant transportation challenges facing Olathe Public Schools. Watch a video explaining the situation. While the bus driver shortage has created significant challenges for district transportation, the true issue the district is looking to resolve is about educational opportunities and access for all of our students through a sustainable transportation model.
Our Current Situation
Locally and nationally, school districts are facing a bus driver shortage due to competition from other industries and drivers choosing not to return to the profession.
Olathe Public Schools is not immune to this challenge. This year, our bus driver shortage has reached an all-time high, despite considerable recruitment efforts. Currently, Olathe has access to approximately 150 bus drivers, but we need more than 180 drivers to fulfill the current demand. We have a substantial waitlist of families unable to receive transportation, as well as several buses that regularly arrive up to 30 minutes late for pick up/drop off.
This challenge does not only impact our bus riders, but all students, as we use transportation to support a variety of travel needs including athletics/activities, field trips and 21st Century Academies. Many of our neighboring school districts have been forced to take action with their bus providers, from eliminating services and routes entirely to adjusting school start/end times.
Action Steps the District Is Taking
As a district, we have reached a critical point where action is needed to find a solution. Over the past several months, Olathe Public Schools has been studying a change to school start/end times to accommodate what is known as a three-tier bus system. In a three-tier system, school start times and end times are adjusted so that some buses can complete up to three routes each day, more efficiently using the current number of bus drivers available.
At the March 2 Board of Education meeting, district administration provided an update on the progress of the bell schedule study, including current challenges, an overview of student, staff, parent and Bell Schedule Committee feedback, and a presentation of three new bell schedule options for the Board’s consideration. (Watch a video of the March 2 Board of Education presentation, or view the presentation PowerPoint for more information).
On Thursday, March 23, the Olathe Public Schools Board of Education held a special workshop to continue discussions on the bell time study. No action was taken at the meeting, but rather, this was a time for board members to discuss the potential change in bell times as a group.
Based on community feedback since the March 3 Board of Education meeting, three additional bell schedule options were shared with the board for their consideration at the workshop. See these additional options on the Proposed Solutions webpage.
Moving forward, district staff will continue to analyze and evaluate the schedule options presented, as well as feedback received, and will return at the April 6 Board of Education meeting to provide a final recommended schedule for the Board to approve. The Board will decide whether or not to take action at that time. If the Board votes to approve an updated bell schedule, ONEA (the district’s bargaining unit) would need to ratify any changes to the bell schedule as part of the negotiated agreement. Share your comments on the form below.
This website provides additional details on each of these topics and provides an overarching review of the process and recommendations for consideration. Please take a moment to explore the various tabs on the left-hand navigation to learn more.
Learn More about the 3-Tier Bus Proposal
Thanks for Your Feedback
The district collected feedback through an online feedback form from Friday, March 3, 2023 through Monday, April 10, 2023. Feedback was collected and shared with the Olathe Public Schools board of education and district administration for consideration.