Summit School District responds to transportation issues in first week of school |

Summit School District responds to transportation issues in first week of school

Dillon Valley Elementary School students hop off the school bus Jan. 31, 2018. Summit School District officials fielded many complaints surrounding transportation in the first week of the 2020-21 school year.
Hugh Carey /

FRISCO — With a new school year just beginning, Summit School District officials are already facing complaints from the community. This time the concern surrounds transportation. 

At a school board meeting Thursday, Aug. 27, Superintendent Marion Smith Jr. spoke about concerns regarding changing bus routes. A number of parents reached out to the district during the first days of school, which began Wednesday, Aug. 26, about changing bus routes to accommodate novel coronavirus restrictions. 

Charlie Brittz was one of the parents who reached out to the district with concerns about the bus routes. Specifically, Brittz was worried about students living in the Boreas Pass neighborhood in Breckenridge.

Brittz, who is the parent of a student at Breckenridge Elmentary, used to live in the neighborhood but has since moved outside of the bus zone. He was approached by one of his former neighbors who was concerned because the school sent a letter to parents informing them that the Boreas Pass bus route had been eliminated. 

This isn’t the first time the bus stops in the Boreas Pass neighborhood have gone away. In 2018, the buses stopped driving the route because of a driver shortage. The situation was eventually resolved after parents spoke at a school board meeting.

This time around, the district quickly responded to Brittz and told him the buses would continue service to the Boreas Pass neighborhood. However, Brittz is still concerned about transparency. 

“One of the concerns I had in the letter I wrote to the board was that there was no transparency,” Brittz said. “We couldn’t see which routes were cut for which reason, how many kids were on there. There was just zero transparency about their decision-making.”

The changes to bus routes comes with increased restrictions and limitations placed on buses during the pandemic. In order to prevent the spread of the virus, buses are now allowed to have only 22-24 passengers at time, according to the district’s “return to learn” plan. 

The buses are also restricted to having one student per seat, unless the students are in the same household, in which case they’re required to sit in the same seat. The district modified transportation routes to allow drivers to do more frequent trips and get students to school on time with fewer kids on each bus. 

The district is also looking at fewer staff members in the transportation department. Despite having a total of 800 students in need of transportation, only 10 of the district’s 18 drivers are currently working, Smith said. 

“With all of that information, we had to make decisions,” Smith said. “We wanted to make sure that if we had workable solutions for those who had bus transportation in previous years, that we were having conversations with them.”

With all of the restrictions and guidelines in mind, the district then had to make changes to how school buses operate, Smith said. The primary focus was students who needed the bus to get to school, which includes those with housing insecurity, special needs and kids in foster care. Families who responded to surveys indicating they needed transportation were also prioritized.

In its first week of the school year, the district took feedback from parents and families to add bus stops where they are able to, Smith said. 

“If we’re able to find a workable solution within all those criteria that we outlined, then we will continue to add stops,” he said.

The district is also considering staggered starts and double routes to be able to offer transportation to families who have had it in the past. 

Brittz said he’s grateful for the attention Smith is putting toward the transportation issue. 

“The concern is once a route is cut, it never comes back,” he said. “They’ll always say, ‘Oh, it will only be interim. It will only be temporary,’ but I have a feeling that once they consolidate these routes down, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, these are the routes now, and that’s how it’s going to be.’”

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