The Dayton school district is still facing questions from a local charter school about busing, and from its own school board members about the quality and cost of busing.
Alyse Pennington, principal at a local Horizon Science Academy charter school, said in a Dayton Public Schools board meeting Tuesday the DPS buses that are supposed to take students to and from her school are no longer showing up to bring students to school or drop them off.
DPS is required by Ohio law to provide busing to all kids in the DPS district, whether it’s for the district’s own schools or for charter and private schools, which have thousands of students. That means the district is busing students from all over the city to a collection of around 50 different schools with a variety of starting and ending times.
The state changed its rules for schools to bus students earlier this year.
Earlier this year, DPS ended its contract with First Student — which last school year had bused all the charter school students — in what DPS Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said was a mutual agreement. DPS is now transporting all qualifying students younger than high school to their respective schools. To accommodate for the increase in students, high school students who need busing have to ride RTA buses.
Lolli said the district has made many efforts to solve the transportation concerns of the charter schools experiencing issues. With the three-tier system of routing to accommodate busing the charters as well as DPS, many of the DPS schools moved from a later start time to a 7 a.m. start to accommodate charter schools, and others moved to a 9 a.m. start, which means some students aren’t getting out until 4 p.m.
“Prior to the start of the school year, charters were asked to alter their start times to accommodate busing for all students,” Lolli said. “Some were willing to move their times, but others refused. Had those that refused moved their start times, as many DPS schools did, the busing would not be a continued issue.”
She noted the state only pays for part of the busing. For example, DPS received $8,382,895 as reimbursement for all transportation in Fiscal Year 2020. That year, the district spent a total of $19,330,570 on transportation, Lolli said.
During the meeting on Tuesday, school board member Chrisondra Goodwine said she’s had issues with getting her teenager to DPS high schools on time using RTA passes because the buses don’t run many routes that early.
“I don’t know if you guys have tried to send a teenager in the morning on the bus, but there are very few routes that get there before 8 a.m., or by 7:45,” she said.
She asked the district to look into how the RTA busing has been going for high school students and how the students are behaving on the buses.
Pennington said an earlier issue this school year, with DPS buses showing up later than the start time and after the end time, was resolved after she spoke to Shelia Burton, the district’s assistant superintendent. Dayton Public Schools changed Horizon’s busing from a tiered system to match up with Horizon’s school schedule.
But Pennington said the problem now is that the buses don’t show up at all. Pennington said her understanding of why that’s happening is the buses on the route to Horizon don’t have assigned drivers, and the students are at the mercy of whoever is available.
On Monday, Pennington said just two of the four buses that are sent to Horizon arrived.
“This varies on a daily basis,” Pennington said. “But there has not been a single day where all of my buses have arrived to school.”
She said parents have been missing work to take their children to school and are fearful that they will face truancy charges because their children haven’t been in school.
Board member Dion Sampson asked if the district is getting a discount for providing more than 5,000 bus passes to their students. Burton said there was not a group discount, though she wished there were, and each bus pass costs about $75.