CPS to limit who can ride buses amid driver shortage at start of school year

In a letter to CPS families, the district said it only had half of the necessary school bus drivers to provide transportation for eligible students

NBC Universal, Inc.

The start of school for Chicago Public School students is just 20 days away, but in a letter to CPS families, the district said it only had half of the necessary school bus drivers to provide transportation for eligible students.

It will provide transportation to 7,000 kids who are considered priority students as required by state law.

“We have opted to follow our policy, which is transporting the students who are most in need, which is our diverse learners and our students in temporary living situations,” CPS Chief Operating Officer Charles Mayfield told NBC 5.

The only students who will have district-provided buses for the first day are those diverse learners and students with temporary living situations who already requested transportation. Siblings of those students who attend the same school will also be covered.

If a student falls into one of those categories and has not yet requested transportation, the district will offer a $500 stipend until the student can have a bus assigned. Families can also opt out of district-provided buses and choose the stipend as an alternative.

The district said families of more than 3,000 students already chose the stipend instead.

CPS will continue accepting requests for students in those categories, and will aim to fulfill requests within two weeks.

General education students in selective enrollment and magnet programs will not have a bus assigned on the first day of school. The district is instead offering free CTA Ventra cards valued at $35 a month.

“Those CTA Ventra cards are not only for the student but also one companion,” Mayfield said.

In order to receive a Ventra card, families must fill out this form by Aug. 11.

Ventra cards and companion passes will be available for pick-up from a designated transportation coordinator at the student’s school when the school year begins. All CPS students will be able to ride the CTA for free on the first day.

Thirteen bus companies are contracted through CPS.

Illinois Central School Bus company runs 187 routes for CPS out of its Pilsen and Blue Island locations. They are one of many companies across the country trying to gain and retain bus drivers.

“I think it’s just a matter of getting the word out that it is a good, well-paying part time job that I think would fit a lot of people’s schedules,” said Tom Ryan, the regional finance controller at the company. “I think over the last few years we’ve increased wages on an average of 30 percent.”

Illinois Central School Bus is now offering signing and referral bonuses, competitive wages and flexible scheduling to draw in drivers. They require any driver to be at least 21 years old, have a valid driver’s license for the past three years and pass a background check.

“Everybody is trying to come up with anything to get people in the door,” Cynthia Sosnowski, contract manager at Illinois Central School Bus told NBC 5. “It breaks my heart sincerely. These kids need to get to school, and we need to get people in here who are passionate, compassionate and have a will to want to do that.”

They are holding an in-house hiring event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 10 at 2555 S. Blue Island Ave. in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.

There will also be a student transportation hiring fair from 2-5 p.m. on Aug. 16 at the McCormick Place for interested drivers.

Thurs. Aug. 3rd, 2023 10a - 2pmReliant4400 W. 45th  Chicago, IlDrivers
Thurs. Aug. 3rd, 2023 3p -7pA.MOgden Park 6500 S. Racine Chicago, IlDrivers
Wed. Aug. 16th, 2023CPS STSSchool Start Up Conference McCormick Place  2301 S. Indiana  Chicago, IllinoisBus Aides, Monitor, School Bus Drivers,
Thurs. Aug 31st, 2023CBO CollectiveCBOC Hiring Event  UCAN 11820 S. Marshfield ChicagoBus Aides, Monitor, School Bus Drivers
Every 3rd Wednesday of the MonthTalentVaries CitywideBus Aides, Monitor, School Bus Drivers

CPS asks anyone with questions about school transportation to contact transoptions@cps.edu

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