DENVER — For many students in Denver, this week means summer is over and school is back in session. But families at six schools in Denver Public Schools (DPS) feel as though this school year will be longer than most, after their school bus routes were partially or fully cut.
Those with the school district said six out of 204 schools experienced those cuts, which impacted around 3% of its total school bus routes. A representative with DPS said the decisions were made because of the new Healthy Start Times. Their reasoning was based on Free and Reduced Lunch percentages, and the number of students utilizing the routes.
Beginning this year, Denver Public Schools have new bell times that align with the Board of Education’s Healthy Start Times resolution. To determine the new bell times, we relied on feedback and data collected throughout the district from surveys and conversations with our DPS community. Because of these new start and end times, six of our 204 schools will have full or partial transportation cuts.
These decisions were not taken lightly. To reduce the overall impact of transportation cuts, we looked at utilization rates to see how many students were using each route. Then we factored in the Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL) percentage of riders assigned to each route. By prioritizing rider utilization and FRL percentages, we were able to ensure that our families who most rely on DPS transportation will continue to be able to access their buses to the greatest extent possible.
The Healthy Start Times resolution created time windows in which each school level starts. Because of these windows, we had to make a few cuts to the transportation plan. In the end, 22 of our 645 transportation segments were impacted. These cuts were announced to our communities during the ’22-’23 school year.
Scott Pribble, DPS Spokesperson
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Some parents who have children at the affected schools said they did not see the messaging about the school bus routes last year.
“We were pretty shocked. They didn’t make a big announcement. They buried it in this Healthy Start announcement, which — to most parents and everyone I’ve talked to — seems kind of irrelevant to the bus starting time,” said Jason Steele, who has a daughter starting sixth grade at Morey Middle School this year. “They claim they make this big announcement. But clearly, it didn’t reach most parents.”
Steele, along with other parents and students impacted by the school bus route cuts, spoke to the DPS Board of Education during a public comment session Monday afternoon.
“I’m a freelance writer,” Steele said. “I make money when I’m writing, and now when I’m driving my kids downtown and back… about 10 hours a week, it adds up. So, if my wife has a full-time job, and I’m doing the driving, that’s a quarter of my workday that I’m losing.”
The time lost to transportation is what Steele said is the cost of the cuts.
“We should have access to busing, the same as the other children in the school district and their families,” Steele said. “We’re hoping that the school board can listen to reason, and see that it’s time to reinstate the buses.”
Those on the school board said the decision was made by the district and superintendent, not them.
“I’m not in the day-to-day operations. I do have faith that our superintendent and the district are working towards meeting the needs in every way, including bus routes for the students,” said Xochitl “Sochi” Gaytán, president of the Board of Education.
Parents and students hope something is done to change the situation this year.
“I want my buses back. I want to be able to get to school safe. And I want my friends to get to school safe too,” Steele’s daughter, Evie, told the board.
According to DPS, Morey Middle School and Denver School of the Arts had a portion of their transportation services cut. Denison Montessori, Denver Language School, Polaris and STRIVE-Sunnyside have full cuts.
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