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Rochester City School students to start class a day later, on Thursday

James Brown

The Rochester City School District’s first day of class has been pushed back a day.

The emergency board work session on Sunday night revolved around the issue that has impacted Rochester and schools all over the country: not enough bus drivers.

The situation in Rochester seems to have been exacerbated in recent days with drivers the district was counting on not showing up for their preliminary dry runs late last week. One of the district’s bus contractors said that may be due in part to concern about the rapid spread of the COVID-19 delta variant.

In any case, the board did decide Sunday night that the first day of school, for kids in pre-K through 12th grade, will be Thursday, September 9, instead of Wednesday.  The hope is to get most students learning in-person, which was the original plan, although District Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small said that some students may need to try and provide their own transportation.

“We are excited and we’re looking forward to having our scholars back in person, as many who will be here. We will have a plan ready for the board of education and our public.” Myers-Small said that for students who cannot get bus transportation due to the driver shortage and don’t have their own rides, there will be remote learning available for them until transportation can be arranged.

The district is also working with RTS to arrange bus transportation for some of the students who would be left off a bus route due to the driver shortage. 

Rochester school board member Beatriz LeBron urged people throughout the community to provide rides to students who can’t get a bus due to the driver shortage.

“If you have kids that are in your neighborhood or your neighbors, your caregivers, your nephews, cousins, nieces, whatever the case may be, and you have transportation, please step up and support families, so that we can get all of our kids to school.”  LeBron also urged the district to investigate why the driver shortage unfolded the way it did and how the district responded to the crisis.

The issues swirling around the driver shortage in the city came to a head on Friday, when Myers-Small talked about the possibility of having to provide remote learning in some grades due to the lack of drivers. There was emotional pushback to that idea from students, teachers and parents.

The school board has scheduled another meeting for 6:00 p.m. on Monday to finalize details about the opening of school, but there may be further action needed on Tuesday, after the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority Board meets to go over changes as part of the additional bus runs they will make for some city schools.

The Rochester City School District sent a letter to parents on Monday, telling the families of students at the Dr. Walter Cooper Academy School No.10, Enrico Fermi School No. 17 and Abraham Lincoln School No. 22,  that RCSD is eliminating transportation  for students who participate in the Walker-Bus program and live within 1.5 miles  of their school.

That is one of several adjustments the district said is needed to deal with the bus driver shortage.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.