OLATHE, Kan. —Starting next school year fewer students in Olathe will be able to rely on the school bus to get to class.
In response to the ongoing bus driver shortage, the Olathe School District will eliminate roughly 35 bus routes in the 2023-24 school year.
Due to a lack of bus drivers, the district began implementing rolling transportation blackouts in January. In March the district began exploring options to change school start times to accommodate the lack of drivers.
Assistant Superintendent of Middle School Education Dr. Jim McMullen provided the school board with a transportation update Thursday night.
Starting in the 2023-24 school year the district will no longer provide a paid transportation option for middle school and high school students living less than 2.5 miles from their school.
McMullen said this will impact roughly 2,100 students and allow the district to cut 25 bus routes. The district will continue offering a paid rider option for elementary students.
McMullen said approximately 10 bus routes will be cut as the district eliminates free transportation option for students attending 21st Century Academy, the Olathe Advanced Technical Center and/or the SOAR program at Mill Creek.
“[For] 21st Century Academies we will continue to offer transportation, but it will be on a paid ride basis,” McMullen said.
The district will also remove all safety variances in places where walking and biking upgrades have been made. Parents can check out the full list of updated safety variances for the 2023-24 school year on the district’s website.
McMullen said going forward the district will need to limit field trips and continue utilizing its rolling transportation blackout policy.
Thursday the school board voted in favor of removing guidelines for paid rider services to allow for an annual review of payride services and guidelines to be set by district staff.
“Should things get better this current school year, or should we move to a three tier system a year from now, whatever the case may be. It allows district staff to be able to make that switch and re-implement pay ride and those milage requirements without having to come to the board for future action,” McMullen said.
District officials say students who qualify for free and reduced price services also qualify for reduced price transportation services.
All students wanting to ride the bus to school are required to register with the district. For the 2023-24 school year, open registration is available May 9-July 1. Those who register after July 1 will be placed on a waiting list.