El Campo ISD wants to know how many students will ride if a pilot program expands bus routes.
Transportation Director Mark Freeman is in charge of rolling out the plan by the end of September. A survey will go out to parents within the next two weeks.
“Something of this scale takes time, but we still have plans to begin the program by the end of this month,” Freeman said. “We haven’t had enough drivers for the current routes we have...but we are finally ready to move on to the next step.”
The current bus fleet consists of 17 full-time drivers, but at least two more are needed if a driver is sick or a bus breaks down unexpectedly, Freeman said.
“Anyone with a CDL can walk in those doors and most likely get a job,” Freeman said. “Drivers who meet our criteria will be hired as soon as we can get the paperwork done, but the biggest issue is getting them through that door.”
Bus drivers must pass a background check, be able to work around children and possess the proper license to operate a school bus.
The survey asks whether or not the household will participate in the pilot program and how many students will ride the bus.
“We don’t know if 80 or 800 parents will want their kids to use the new program at a certain stop,” Freeman said. “The first step is to get as many parents to fill out this survey as possible. That way, we can spread out our resources the best we can.”
Funding from the state for bus riders within the city limits was cut short 10 years ago. This shortage left 60 percent of the student population without an option to ride the bus.
The Pilot program will create satellite stops for multiple students to get off closer to their homes instead of individual addresses.
“We could add these stops and not add any additional routes, need any additional personnel, or need an additional bus,” Freeman said. “We won’t know anything until we can get input from parents.”
As of Friday, 500 of 3,500 enrolled students use the current bus system. The expansion of bus stops within the city limits of the school will expand the program to thousands, Freeman said.
“We are proud of the effort being made by Mark to get this project under way,” Superintendant Bob Callaghan said.”We understand some parents may need this to relieve the burden of getting their students to and from school.”