Leon County Schools (LCS) are making changes to the bus system due to budget constraints and bus driver retention and recruitment issues.
Manny Joanos, the Director of Transportation for LCS, sent a letter home to parents outlining the problems and changes.
Joanos, wrote, “Over the years we have gone out of our way to provide services that went beyond the state requirements of a school system transportation department. However, we are now experiencing changes on two fronts that may impact some of those services.”
Joanos cited “an ever tightening budget” with increasing costs for the operation and maintenance of the bus system. He also noted that LCS is “experiencing a chronic problem in the recruitment and retention of qualified CDL licensed bus drivers.
Joanos reported that LCS Transportation currently has 38 vacant driver positions and expects that number may increase over the next two to three years.
Changes to the current system include the reduction and eventual elimination of courtesy stops. These are stops are within the two mile zone of a school site that state government will not reimburse the District for ridership. Last year LCS provided courtesy transportation for over 1,000 students out of a total of a little more than 6,500 bus stops.
Also, over the next year, the LCS Transportation Department will adopt new criteria to provide stops at no less than 4 tenths of a mile between each bus stop. This action will reduce current stops on most routes. This action will also allow for a bus to cover a greater area and reduce the time a student is on the bus.
And finally, LCS will implement a new automated bus routing software. This software will optimize all routes electronically. The effect of a fully optimized system is estimated to reduce the number of routes by another 3 – 12%.
This optimization combined with the reduction of courtesy routes should reduce the number of buses used for daily transports by 22 -27 buses. Reducing needed drivers by 22 -27 will go along way towards stabilizing 38 vacancies.