INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis Public School buses will run as normal on Monday, according to the district.
The school system tweeted out that information Monday morning. While buses will be running their normal route, the system did say there may be potential delays with some drivers still calling off.
This comes after IPS canceled all bus routes on Friday following a number of “driver call offs.”
On Sunday night, the district had said bus driver call-offs ahead of Monday’s classes mean the district is “not confident” that transportation services for students will be able to run in a “safe and efficient manner,” and parents are encouraged to consider alternate transportation options.
Sunday’s announcement comes after driver call-offs on Friday led to the school canceling bus transportation for the entire day.
IPS has partnered with IndyGo to provide free rides to all IPS elementary and middle school students. They will not need a bus pass for Monday — they just need to tell drivers that they attend IPS. High school students already have free passes embedded into their school IDs through an existing partnership.
Any adults who want to accompany their students on the IndyGo buses will have to pay their own bus fare, according to IPS.
Some parents told News 8 they respect the bus drivers’ choices but wish there was a back-up plan that didn’t put parents in such a bind when figuring out how they are going to get their kids to and from school.
Seventy-one IPS school bus drivers called out sick on Friday, leaving thousands of kids without a way to get to school for much-needed meals and resources.
The school believes that the call-offs were a result of a change in the transportation company the school will use to bus the students. Drivers tell News 8 that the call-offs were organized to make a statement. The switchover to First Student could leave the current bus drivers without jobs. IPS says the drivers are encouraged to reapply for positions through the new company.
IPS says they have offered a $2,000 bonus to drivers who maintain attendance until the end of the year. In addition, First Student has a $1,500 bonus to drivers who transfer their employment while in good standing with IPS. The district says First Student will match drivers’ current wages if they transition.
“It was pretty late notice; fortunately we live close by and we have our own car, so our nanny was able to just drive her to school instead of walking her to the bus stop,” said one mom who has a daughter in IPS schools.
However, not all parents were as lucky. Roughly 14,000 students didn’t make it to class Friday — that’s more than half the enrollment of IPS Schools.
“When she was there, there were not enough kids for them to have the class. She was in two classes, not enough students for them to have the full class,” said Oscar Chicas, father of an IPS student.
“Very empty classrooms. Maybe like two or three of the classrooms were combined with a total of 10 students,” said Stephanie Veloz, who is a parent and a teacher.
Even more stress ensued when parents then had to also find a way to get their kids home from school.
“At my job, I don’t always have the ability to check my phone notifications during the day, so it was kind of a last minute trying to arrange transportation back home,” said a mother.
Veloza is a teacher at a school that uses the IPS bus system. Ninety percent of her school’s students rely on bus transportation. “We probably had about 20% attendance between the three schools, about 200 students period,” she said.
Comments on social media show a split when it comes to whether or not people support the bus drivers’ actions.
“If you do change something like that and they do lose their benefits, lose their retirement, lose all the benefits they have worked for. They don’t have another opportunity to go for another job to get something else and it does effect their lifestyle and their livelihood, I understand their plight,” said Veloz.
As parents try and come up with a plan for Monday, they are hoping for a resolution soon.
“If kids aren’t able to come to school because of transportation, that is really detrimental for their education and their learning experiences,” said Veloz.
In a late Sunday letter to parents at one K-8 IPS school, officials said, “Students who cannot attend school because of lack of transportation will receive an excused absence.”
IPS recommends parents consider carpooling with other IPS families or using public transit for Monday as they continue to work out a solution. The school says regardless of the transportation situation the schools will be open.
Full statement from IPS:
“After continued conversations with AFSCME union leadership all weekend, out of an abundance of caution, Indianapolis Public Schools has communicated to families this evening that given the current trend in the number of driver call-offs received thus far, we are not confident that IPS will be able to run regular school bus routes in a safe and efficient manner for Monday, March 2. While our team does have a contingency plan for the current number of drivers who have called off, any additional drivers who chose to call off overnight would make coverage no longer feasible. A final update will be provided to families by 5:30 a.m. on Monday morning.
“Schools will remain open, meal service will be provided, and teachers and staff will be present to receive and educate students.
“We recognize this is a disruption to our families and have partnered with IndyGo who’s providing free rides to all IPS students in elementary and middle school. Through an existing partnership, all IPS high school student IDs are already embedded with free bus passes that allow them yearly access to public transportation. Bus passes aren’t needed for elementary or middle school students to ride. They will simply need to tell IndyGo bus drivers they attend IPS. Adults accompanying younger students will need to need to purchase their own bus fare, which is $1.75 for a 2-Hour Ticket or $4 for an all-day pass.
“The district understands that change is hard. When the partnership with First Student was approved in January, our team immediately met with AFSCME leadership and First Student to discuss the process for a smooth transition. There have been several efforts made to support this transition, some of which are noted below:
- IPS administration gained permission from the IPS Board of School Commissioners to offer an additional compensation bonus—up to $2,000—for employees who maintain strong attendance until the end of the year. In addition to that offer, First Student agreed to offer an additional $1,500 to drivers who transitioned their employment to First Student while being in good standing with IPS.
- IPS administration worked with AFSCME and First Student to ensure that there was confirmation by First Student that AFSCME would be recognized as the representative of their Indianapolis employees once a specified threshold was met.
- First Student has committed to recognizing the current seniority of IPS employees when they transition to First Student as well as ensuring that no current IPS employee who transitions to First Student faces any reduction in their current wage.
“As it relates to the additional compensation bonus, the IPS administration is poised to request the Board of School Commissioners approve this agreement during March’s board meeting in a formal resolution.
“If drivers have further concerns, we respectfully ask that they take up their concerns with their union.
“We thank the drivers who have continued to report to work and appreciate their dedication to our students and families. We sincerely apologize to our families for this inconvenience. The academic lives and well-being of our students is our top priority and we are diligently working to resolve this issue.”