SLPS makes changes to scheduling and adds new technology to better accommodate school transportation for families

Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 5:44 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - A solution could be on the horizon for hundreds of St. Louis Public School students who have been left without school buses this year. It’s a story News 4′s been tracking for weeks now and talking with parents who are struggling to get their kids to school. Now, the district’s pledging that changes are coming.

The biggest change is timing. Fifteen SLPS schools will be ending 10 minutes earlier than normal, which means, starting in a few weeks, every SLPS student should have a bus to ride to and from school.

“It’s still not perfect and we know that, and we’re doing everything that we can do to get a little better every day,” George Sells with SLPS said.

A week before school started, district leaders said eight individual schools would be without buses for only 10 days. However, it’s more than four weeks into school and the bus driver shortage is still impacting hundreds of families. So now, the district is shifting gears and bell schedules in hopes that buses can make multiple routes from different schools to ensure every single student has a ride.

“The things we can control are things like bell times and in some cases, routings. So, we’ve taken a long, hard look at that and we’ve come up with a way that we think will decrease some of the numbers we need in the short term as far as drivers and buses,” Sells explained.

Below is the note SLPS sent to parents Thursday explaining the changes:

Dear SLPS Families and staff,

I have some news regarding our transportation situation which I hope, in the next couple of weeks, will provide some “light at the end of the tunnel” in our dealing with this transportation crisis.

While Missouri Central continues to work hard to hire enough new drivers to cover the routes we need, there are some steps we can take from the school level to reduce demand for vehicles and drivers.

This will be accomplished by shortening school by ten minutes for all 1st Tier Schools at the end of the day. That means if your school currently lets out at 2:07pm, your student will now be released at 1:57pm beginning on October 3rd. This will impact AESM@ L’Ouverture, Beaumont, Busch Middle, CAJT at Nottingham, Carnahan, Carr Lane VPA, Central VPA, Clyde C. Miller Career Academy, Compton Drew ILS, Gateway STEM, Long International, McKinley, Metro, and Soldan.

In addition, Mallinckrodt will be shifting to a 9:20am morning bell, dismissing at 4:17pm.

This will accommodate another change, the sharing of bus routes between Mallinckrodt and Betty Wheeler CJA. This ten-minute window will allow busses to get from one school to the other. This will also begin October 3rd.

These changes should allow us to add between ten and fourteen bus routes and begin providing increased service to the eight schools who, up until now, have been disrupted. This change in times will also allow many schools to eliminate the overlap between busses and parents picking up. This is intended to improve efficiency on the school site, and hopefully improve on-time performance.

This process may lead to other minor adjustments in bus routes. Schools and families will be notified individually about anything impacting them.

Meanwhile, Missouri Central’s “Here Comes the Bus” GPS bus tracking app is also now available. Please see the attached flyer for “Here Comes the Bus.” This application will provide a real-time location of your child’s bus on a map. It will give both estimated and actual arrival times both at home and at school, and it will send both push and email notifications when a bus is near.

The flyer provides instructions on downloading and signing up for the app. Translations into several languages are available here:

It is our belief that all of this will go toward making the lives of our families a little bit easier, both through an improved flow of information and an increased efficiency in the use of our strained resources on the transportation front.

Once again, I thank you for your patience and support, and apologize for any inconvenience this transportation crisis may have caused.

Dr. Kelvin Adams, SLPS superintendent

In addition to bell changes, the school is also rolling out a new app called “Here Comes the Bus” that tracks students’ buses and gives parents a real estimated time of arrival.

“If there is a moment there where you’re not sure where your child is, the bus is running late, this should not only tell you where they are at that moment but give you an estimated arrival time for your child whether it’s going to school or coming home,” Sells added.

The app itself was designed by Missouri Central Bus Service’s parent company, Illinois Central. For weeks now, SLPS staff has been testing it out. Thursday morning, it was launched for the first time to parents. Some parents News 4 talked to said they believe the location is pretty accurate and they’re glad to see the bus status and ETA.

“I am a dad. I completely get it. Even if it’s just five to 10 minutes and you’re not quite sure, it gets your attention, and it gets your blood pressure up. Obviously, we don’t want to put anyone through that. We believe that this should make a pretty big difference for our families as far as at least being able to look at something and say ‘okay I know where my child is now,’” Sells said.

SLPS has more information on the tracking app on its website.

Changes for bell schedules go into effect on October 3.