Similar to school districts across the country, Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) must transform its approach to transporting students to limit the impact of a national school bus driver shortage, hitting close to home. This shortage became exacerbated due to the lack of work available during the pandemic while school buses stood still and other jobs were hiring. This ongoing lack of bus drivers leaves the District short-handed 436 drivers (229 CDL and 207 non-CDL) with a seat gap for approximately 10,996 students.
Solution Driven Response
Pittsburgh Public Schools Transportation Department continues to take steps to gain efficiencies in transportation services to address the seat gap. So, what is being done?
Increasing Walk Zones
Students are eligible for transportation based on the distance between their home and their assigned school. Transportation eligibility is measured from the nearest point where a private way or private road connects the residence of the student to the nearest point where a public road touches the school grounds. Students in grades K-8 are eligible for transportation if they live more than 1.5 miles from school, and students s in grades 9-12 are eligible for transportation if they live more than 2 miles from school.
To eliminate the need for 22 yellow buses, the District increased walk zones to align with state and Board policy, moving currently ineligible students from transportation to walkers. The move impacts nearly 800 students. Families will receive notification from the Transportation Department notifying them if their student will be moved to walker status in early August.
Moving Additional Students to Port Authority
To date 1, 028 students have been transitioned from yellow buses to Port Authority, joining the nearly 5,000 students currently utilizing Port Authority to get to and from school. The increase use of public transportation through Port Authority will eliminate the need for 38 yellow buses, impacting the following schools”
- 6-8 grade students at Pittsburgh Obama and Sci-Tech;
- Grades 6-12 grades at Pittsburgh Milliones;
- Sixth graders at Pittsburgh CAPA. Students in grades 7th and 8th currently use Port Authority; and
- Students attending non-PPS schools including Bishop Canevin High School, Ellis School, Environmental Charter School, Manchester Charter School, the Neighborhood Academy, Propel Charter Schools and Winchester Thurston will move to Port Authority.
Students receiving specialized transportation per their IEP will continue to receive those services.
Changing School Start and End Times to Support Multi-Tiered Scheduling
A recently signed tentative agreement between the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT) and PPS supports the District's efforts to seek solutions to address the seat gap through the use of multi-tiered scheduling. Through the use of a three tiered bussing system, the District can increase the number of routes one yellow bus driver can complete before and after school for a maximum of six routes a day for up to 144 students.
Tier 1: 7:15 AM to 8:05 AM Start
High Schools, 6-12 schools and special schools such as Conroy, Pioneer and Oliver Citywide
Tier 2: 8:25 AM Start
Most neighborhood schools including the Student Achievement Center
Tier 3: 9:25 AM Start
Schools serving students traveling from all areas of the city including Magnet schools, partial magnet/neighborhood schools and schools that serve as regional sites for special education students and English as a Second Language
Please find below the proposed changes to school start and end times. Families can expect transportation information the week of August 30th. For more information about the District’s efforts to get kids to school and a proposed bell schedule times and tiers, please visit www.pghschools.org/gettingkidstoschool.
How can families help?
Expanded walk zones, increased use of Port Authority with the proposed changes to school start and end times will reduce the seat gap by more than half. The District’s Transportation Department will take the following added steps to address the remaining seat gap, prioritizing yellow bus and van carrier service for the District’s youngest students in grades K-5 and those that receive specialized transportation:
- Support newly added transportation carriers as they complete onboarding of new drivers;
- Transition additional middle school students to Port Authority where feasible;
- Finalize new partnerships with community stakeholders for other transportation channels.
There are also ways families can help:
Release Your Seat
Families eligible for transportation, who are able to transport their student to and from school are asked to notify the District at www.pghschools.org/releaseyourseat or so submit Let’s Talk ticket. In addition, Port Authority ConnecTIX tickets will be available to families who need them to transport their student to school. Families are encouraged to contact Let’s Talk at www.pghschools.org/Letstalk or at 412-529-HELP if they are able to use ConnecTIX for school transportation.
Become a School Bus Driver
Transportation companies across our region are looking for bus drivers to safely transport Pittsburgh Public Schools students to and from school. All you need is a valid driver’s license, excellent driving skills, and an outstanding driving record. Applicants must pass clearance checks, drug test, and a criminal background check with no DUIs or felonies. Paid CDL Training is provided at most bus companies and some include signing bonuses. We need YOU! So, start your new career today! Contact Pupil Transportation at 412-529-5947 for more information.