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Pittsburgh Public Schools Short On Transportation For 400 Students Ahead Of School Start

Jared Murphy
90.5 WESA

Thousands of Pittsburgh Public Schools students will navigate new ways to get to class on Friday, the first day of school.

To mitigate a significant bus driver shortage, the district shifted students to Port Authority buses, eliminated transportation for others and shifted the start of the school day to make more efficient use of the drivers it does have.

The district is still short 50 licensed drivers — down from 360 at the end of the last school year. And while last month the district worried it lacked transportation plans for 11,000 students, director of transportation Megan Patton said on Wednesday that 370 students still do not have district-provided transportation. Another 80 Pittsburgh students who do not attend district schools are also without transportation. (By law, Pennsylvania school districts must provide transportation to students who attend charter or parochial schools within city limits.)

“It’s not ideal [or] exactly where we want to be because we want to be at zero," Patton said. "But we are working around the clock to make sure we get these 450 students to school in the next couple of weeks."

Families without transportation will have access to Port Authority vouchers or receive reimbursement if they provide their own transportation. Patton said the district is also working to add a fourth tier to its transportation schedule so that drivers can pick up students without district-provided transportation.

Meanwhile, the district is seeking community support. Education advocacy group A+ Schools is overseeing an effort to hire transportation ambassadors to help students navigating Port Authority buses. The district will pay them $15 an hour for two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon. They’ll wear safety vests and help confused students get to the right place. Those interested can complete this form.

A+ Schools deputy director of policy Graham Mulqueen says he has hired nine ambassadors but wants to staff 30 locations.

“I think we see it as a time for us to step up as a member of the community to bring a little big of smoothness to the start of school for students,” he said.

Patton said Wednesday that families should have received a letter from the district this week outlining their child’s transportation schedule this year.

Sarah Schneider is WESA's education reporter. From early learning to higher education, Sarah is interested in students and educators working to create more equitable systems. Sarah previously worked with news outlets in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Idaho. She is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale where she worked for the school newspaper, the Daily Egyptian.