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Fewer bus drivers, less service: Oconto Falls Schools further limit pickup locations

Posted at 4:41 PM, May 07, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-07 17:41:12-04

Next school year, further bus access will be limited for students in Oconto Falls as school officials say they're struggling with a lack of drivers.

  • Students who live within two miles of a proposed location near Oconto Falls Elementary School will not be able to take the bus to school next school year, under a plan approved by the Oconto Falls Public Schools Board of Education
  • Currently, students who live within a one-mile radius of a separate location in the area are not eligible for bus transportation to school
  • The cause of the change is a lack of school bus drivers, the Oconto Falls superintendent told the Board of Education

(The following is a transcript of the broadcast story.)

The plan submitted by Superintendent Dean Hess proposed using a center-point along Highway I near the new middle school, and all students who live within a two-mile radius from that point would not be eligible for bus transportation to school.

The Board approved the two-mile radius plan, to begin next school year.

Currently, students who live within a one-mile radius of a different location are ineligible for bus transportation to school.

Ryan Carlson lives inside of the current area.

"Why have buses, if the buses don't pick up kids?" said Carlson, who noted that he does not live within a close walk of school. His son is in kindergarten, and Carlson says the lack of busing affected his son's education.

"We couldn't get him into 4k [last year] because I didn't have a car at the time, and the buses wouldn't come," Carlson said.

"So... he missed a whole year of school, just because the buses wouldn't pick us up...," Carlson said.

Hess told the school board the cause of needing to increase the area of busing ineligibility is a shortage of drivers, and two drivers are retiring at the end of this school year.

Hess told the board the district wants a sustainable staffing plan and not to be surprising parents with a call that the bus can't pick up their children.

He told the board they're trying to hire more drivers, and if they're able to, they could reverse this plan.

NBC 26 called and emailed Hess for this story, but never heard back.

The school board president also did not return our call.

Carlson has advice for anyone whose children get a bus ride now, but won't be able to next year.

"Make sure you have a ride every single day, otherwise, you're not going to be able to get your kid to the school."