Like many school districts in our area, we have students that qualify for bus transportation to and from school. Our board policy is designed to meet travel guidelines provided by the state of Wisconsin and adhere to the Designated Hazardous Area Transportation Plan we receive from the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department. As in the past, most of our families received Bus Transportation postcards from First Student (our transportation provider) in August. Yet, due to a variety of changes at the start of our school year, some of our families experienced routing issues.
Now that these issues are resolved we wanted to share, with some detail, what occurred and what we are doing to ensure this problem does not take place again.
Variables at the Start of the School Year
During the start of the year, the situation involving bus transportation was complicated by several factors. First, our school bus provider and our district underwent staff changes that impacted the process. Next, First Student elected to use a new routing service and updated routing software that did not automatically utilize past bus routes. In addition, the company did not set up a computer link with our Infinite Campus software to identify students who had changes to their address or those who were new to the district. Finally, the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department issued a new Designated Hazardous Area Transportation Plan.
Further complicating our transportation issues, was the intra-district transfer policy used prior to July 1, 2016. Before the implementation of our Neighborhood School initiative elementary and intermediate parents could elect to intra-district transfer their child as long as they provided transportation to that school. High school students could choose a school knowing they would provide their own transportation to that building. Open enrollment students, it should be noted, are always responsible for their own transportation to schools in the district. While everyone worked hard to identify transportation needs properly, these variables resulted in routing issues during the first days of school.
When we realized some students were not properly included , we notified affected families using our phone messaging service. From there, we fielded calls from parents that needed to determine if their child qualified for school bus transportation. We are thankful for the patience of our families, students and school staff and are happy to report that by the second week of school, the vast majority of students that qualified for bussing were routed.
During the start of school, we also contacted the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department with questions about specific areas of our district that may be hazardous. As a result, the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department revised the plan. (This has resulted in an additional bus transportation for Lane Intermediate School students that cross Highway 100 and Greenfield Avenue.)
The WAWM School Board policy regarding bus transportation states that the following students are eligible for transportation:
1. Students in grades 4K-12 residing in the District who live two or more miles from the public school to which they are assigned in the District. (This does not include students that have intra-district transferred from their neighborhood school.)
2. Students residing in areas within the District that requires crossing major roadways to get to school and which have been designated as hazardous by the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department.
3. Students with special education needs in accordance with state and federal law requirements who are eligible for transportation through the Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Call 604-3070 with questions regarding transportation for students with special needs.
4. Students in grades K-12 residing in the District who are attending a private school located two or more miles from the student’s residence, if such private school is a school within whose attendance area the student resides and is situated within the District or not more than five miles beyond the boundaries of the District.
In the months to come, we will be reviewing our bus transportation policy so that it is clear in relation to intra-district transfer, neighborhood schools, the updated Hazardous Area plan and previous bus policies. We are also putting in place specific procedures and planning timelines to ensure a great start for the 2017-2018 school year.
If you wish to check on eligibility for bus transportation, call the WAWM Enrollment Center at 604-3014. If you experience bus or route problems, call the bus company, First Student, at 649-2620. Finally, bus transportation is routed using a resident’s home address. If your address changes, please call the registrar or visit the WAWM Enrollment Center located at 1205 South 70th Street, 4th floor. Again, we apologize for any inconvenience caused by bus routing issues and we appreciate your understanding and cooperation during the start of our school year.