Comal ISD Slashes Bus Routes, Creates No Service Zones as Driver Shortage Continues

Comal ISD school bus
Image courtesy of Comal ISD.
Image courtesy of Comal ISD.

Comal ISD slashed bus routes this week as a nationwide shortage of bus drivers that began during the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of abating in the foreseeable future.

Thousands of students who live in ‘no service zones’ (NSZ) identified on the district’s website will have to walk or catch a ride to school.

In an email to parents, interim Supt. Mandy Epley said the district had no other choice but to eliminate the random cancelations that plagued parents last year.

The announcement came after Tuesday’s board of trustees meeting.

However, the district pushed back drop-off times at all campuses to help beleaguered working parents.

Families can determine whether they live in an NSZ by entering their address in the Transportation Department’s InfoFinder webpage. If a child is not eligible for transportation, it will say ‘No Service Zone’ beneath the campus.

More information is available on the district’s Frequently Asked Questions webpage.

“I know that eliminating bus transportation will cause a burden for many families,” Epley said. “However, given the option of canceling routes daily without notice, or even weekly with short notice, we believe that creating an NSZ around each campus was the better option as it provides families with advance notice, allowing for long-term planning.”

By creating NSZ’s she said the district can eliminate 12 to 14 routes, resulting in fewer drivers needed. The remaining routes will be served by Transportation Department office personnel.

Parents can drop off students earlier to help them cope with the reduced bus routes. Students impacted by NSZ’s can arrive on elementary campuses as early as 7 a.m., at middle school campuses at 7:15 a.m. and at high schools at 7:30 a.m.

Campuses will work with Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) to organize carpools for families who need help getting children to school.

“Last year, this community did an outstanding job in helping us out as you answered our call to transport your children to and from school as you could,” Epley said. “Many of you also worked with your neighbors to create carpools to assist those who needed help. Once again, we need your help as we face this challenge. If we were able to recruit one driver from each elementary zone, we would be able to provide service to all our students. So, if you or someone you know is interested in driving a bus, please let us know.”

She said that the district will continue to recruit aggressively and retain drivers so it can restore routes as quickly as possible.

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