December 12, 2022

Perry Township Schools ends choice enrollment, imposes boundaries to address bus driver shortage


The new boundaries for Perry Township elementary schools are divided based on major roads to prevent separating neighborhoods. The boundaries take effect for the 2023-24 academic year. - Perry Township Schools

The new boundaries for Perry Township elementary schools are divided based on major roads to prevent separating neighborhoods. The boundaries take effect for the 2023-24 academic year.

Perry Township Schools

The Perry Township Schools Board unanimously voted Monday to end open enrollment and enforce boundaries for elementary schools to address its dire bus driver shortage. Next summer, 2,300 K-4 grade students will be forced to switch schools.

Superintendent Pat Mapes said the district has struggled to find drivers since he was hired nearly seven years ago. Now a national bus driver shortage rooted in the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the ongoing lack of drivers for the southside district. Perry Township employs 102 bus drivers, but the district hasn’t found people to fill its 42 open full-time and substitute driver positions.

That’s led to 600 to 1,500 students being roughly an hour late to classes everyday since the beginning of the school year. But eliminating between 15 and 36 bus routes and the choice enrollment program and allow the district to maximize the use of fewer buses. 

“We have some buses right now that only have 25 to 30 students on them,” Mapes said. “And we'll be able to put a lot more students on the buses and be more efficient with our tax dollars.”

But removing the choice enrollment program won’t solve all of the district’s transportation problems. Perry Township still needs to find more drivers.

“We've got everybody who has a CDL license in the district driving,” Mapes said. “We don't have routes filled – if we can divide the routes up and put them on other buses – we’ll make students wait at school and have go-back routes to come and get them and get them home. And we're just going to get them home late, but we're going to get them home.”

Monday evening there were 24 go-back routes. 

But some parents, like McKenna Allen, are frustrated that the board’s decision to end school choice option does not solve all the transportation problems

“This proposal is a loose band-aid that will not solve Perry Township’s transportation issues,” Allen said before the vote. “Quite frankly, our children deserve better than a loose band-aid.” 

What’s next 

This summer when the 2023-24 academic year begins, the district will implement new attendance boundaries for elementary students, an enrollment lottery program for students who want to attend a school outside their boundary and eliminate bus routes. The boundaries are divided based on major roads to prevent separating neighborhoods. 

Students living within a school boundary will receive first priority to attend that school and receive transportation. 

The district will provide students currently in a choice program with an enrollment advantage in the lottery if they want to transfer to a school outside their boundary and seats are available. Transportation is not provided for students who attend a school outside of their attendance boundary. 

Special education programs are the exception to the new boundaries.

“Now our job is to make certain that we contact each parent to let them know where we're moving forward, what school their son or daughter will be attending, the application process if they want to provide transportation and apply for a transfer,” Mapes said. 

Mapes hopes to open enrollment applications in February. In the spring, the schools will host open houses to introduce students to their teachers for next year.

Contact WFYI education reporter Elizabeth Gabriel at egabriel@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @_elizabethgabs.

 

Support independent journalism today. You rely on WFYI to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Donate to power our nonprofit reporting today. Give now.

 

Related News

New HSE administration focus of 'hostile work environment' complaint
Ivy Tech President Sue Ellspermann retiring next year
Career Scholarship Account applications for next school year opens to Indiana students