Lafayette Parish schools hope to avoid last year’s school bus drama

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LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – Transportation is a major responsibility of the Lafayette Parish School System. LPSS transports roughly 19,000 students a day on 258 school buses.

Last year, many things happened at the same time which caused some problems at the beginning of the school year. This year the school system is hoping for a much smoother ride.

James Thomas has been driving a Lafayette Parish school bus for three years. He’s also the school system’s transportation specialist.

He remembers – all too well – some of the problems at the beginning of the last school year. Angry parents expressed frustration about the location of bus stops and their students not being picked up. 

“It was very crazy,” Thomas said. “We had to kind of adapt to what was going on.”

Last year the school board cut the transportation budget so 23 bus routes were eliminated. Bus drivers didn’t get their routes until early August – giving them only a week to learn them.

Things are a lot different this year. The bus drivers were able to bid on their routes during the third week of May. They’ve had all summer to drive their routes and to find out if there were any problems along the way.

“The drivers know where they’re going to be going, they’re not stressed. Office staff is not stressed trying to prepare them at the last minute,” Thomas said.

Losing bus routes wasn’t the only problem last year. The school system also did its first major rezoning in about a decade. And it launched new bus routing software called Versatrans.

“So we took on a lot of challenges last year, and in hindsight, it might have been nicer to take one or two items and then slowly implement,” said Joe Craig, LPSS Chief Administrative Officer.    

This year, there were only two spot rezones. The bus routing software is in its second year of use. School leaders say all students have now been assigned to their buses – including magnet school and gifted students.

The school system also added two permanent transportation clerks at the call center, raising the number of clerks from one to three.        

It means there will be at least one transportation clerk available from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. There will also be 13 temporary call center employees for the first two weeks of school.

Parents can find busing information on the parent portal system or the e-link system on the LPSS website.

If you have any problems you can call 521-RIDE to reach the call center. 

After August 15, the call center closes but you can call 521-7447 if you need help.

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