BY KARISSA MILLER

Iredell-Statesville Schools’ transportation department has tweaked some bus routes and stops in preparation for the 2021-2022 school year.

The district recently completed an efficiency study to evaluate transportation services. The study looked at reducing fuel consumption and overall costs, determining proper metrics for success, and finding ways to reduce the ride time for students.

On Monday morning, the district will send out 190 buses to pick up students throughout the county for the first day of school. 

As a result of the study, there will be 65 fewer bus stops this year. According to I-SS Director of Transportation Kim Fox, this doesn’t mean these stops have been totally eliminated; many have been moved to a corner or end of a street and combined with another stop.

These changes will shorten the ride time for many students, providing a more pleasant experience for all travelers during their morning and afternoon commute, Fox explained.

To safeguard students and families, the school system doesn’t publish the bus stop locations for public knowledge.

Bus stop locations change every single year,  Fox said. Most parents know that it’s best to contact their school to verify the location of their bus stop. 

The modifications will provide a ballpark cost savings of $10,000 for the school district in fuel costs. Other benefits are shorter rider times for students and a safer overall experience for students.

In the worst-case scenario, students will walk just under half a mile to their bus stop, which follows the guidelines that the state gives the transportation department.

However, the exception to this rule is kindergarten through third grade students, a group of 10 or more students and special needs students.

Parents should also be aware that bus stop modifications will likely change pick-up and drop-off times for students as the ride time will be consolidated.

“We’re all in this together. We certainly want to be good stewards and we want all of our children to be safe,” Fox said.

I-SS has approximately 340 bus drivers on its roster.

School leaders know that without a reliable bus driver many students would not make it school.

However, bus drivers are still needed.

Fox said that I-SS’ transportation department strives to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. Most I-SS bus routes are paired, meaning that the same bus driver would pick up and drop off a group of students at one school and then pick up and drop of another group of students at another school.

The transportation department also works hard to avoid overtime pay.

Some bus drivers work in a combination position as a teacher assistant and bus driver. In combo bus driver positions, bus drivers can only work eight hours to avoid overtime. This may mean that they do not drive an afternoon route.

The transportation department staff will analyze the transportation adjustments during the first few weeks of school and decide if they need to make any more changes to their proposed plan.

“We thank the parents for their patience, certainly the first couple of days are always tough,” said I-SS Assistant Superintendent of Operations Richard Armstrong.

The district’s goal, he explained, is ensuring the safety of all I-SS students.

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