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Education

PPS still doesn't have transportation for 200 students, but is promising a fix by Friday

Wayne Walters PPS walk
Sarah Schneider
/
90.5 WESA

Ja’sean says he doesn’t mind it, but second grader Michael says “no, no” when asked if he enjoys his morning commute.

But he might be luckier than some other Pittsburgh Public Schools students.

The two were joined by Interim Superintendent Wayne Walters on Wednesday morning, an effort by the district to impress on parents the importance of finding a safe route for kids to take to school. Walters talked with them about football — namely the Steelers — as they made their way to nearby Weil Elementary.

During the rest of his day, Walters spends much of his time discussing a harder issue: What the district can do for the 213 students who are still without district-provided transportation and live too far from their school to be able to walk.

The district has dealt with a bus driver shortage for years, but it was exacerbated by the pandemic. Leaders say they spent the summer looking for alternatives, and delayed the start of the year to give themselves more time. Part of the solution involved requiring an additional 800 students to walk, on the theory that they lived close enough to their schools to do so.

“We hope to have something done by Friday so that we can at least address students getting to school," Walters said.

Walters is 11 days into his interim appointment. He took over after former superintendent Anthony Hamlet resigned, following the release of a state report on his ethics violations.

The fate of those 200 students has been one of Walters' top priorities, and he said he was asking a lot of questions and exploring options.

He said that by the end of the week, the district will have a solution to get those kids to school — though they might not arrive on time for the morning bell.

"They may be a little late, but what’s more important to me at this juncture with our transportation shortage is that students are actually at school,” he said.

Walters said the transportation department is meeting with school principals to figure out how many of the 213 students have been attending school with their own transportation.

“We know it’s not ideal," he said. "But we also know that we are still in a pandemic. We are working aggressively to make sure that our students are in school and can be transported safely."