DENVER — Just days before the start of the 2023-2024 school year, parents are still scrambling to find transportation after Denver Public Schools (DPS) either partially or fully cut bus routes at six of its schools.
While the district said only 3% of its segments of transportation were canceled for the upcoming school year, parents tell Denver7 they're scrambling for other ways to get their children to school come Monday morning.
"It's creating a crisis for families," said Jason Steele, who's daughter, Evie, is starting sixth grade at Morey Middle School.
According to DPS, Morey Middle School and Denver School of the Arts had a portion of their transportation services cut. Denison Montessori, Denver Language School, Polaris and STRIVE-Sunnyside have full cuts.
A district spokesperson said the problem isn't finding enough drivers, but rather the district's Healthy Start Times resolution.
The DPS Board of Education passed the resolution in May 2021, which pushed back start times for middle and high school students. The later start means tighter routes for bus drivers.
Steele and his wife both work full-time and were counting on public school transportation.
"Come home, come back downtown twice a day is too much to ask of nearly any parent who works," said Steele.
The father of three said private transportation is too expensive and said he's not comfortable with Regional Transportation District (RTD) buses.
"My daughter just turned 11. I'm not ready to have her on a public bus by herself going downtown. It will drop her off several blocks away. I don't think anyone really thought about the safety aspect of this," said Steele.
Not to mention, Steele said the parent drop-off and pick-up situation around the Capitol Hill school is going to be very difficult.
"13th and 14th Avenue are almost like highways here," Steele said.
In a statement, a DPS spokesperson said these decisions were not taken lightly and officials looked at utilization rates to determine which routes to cut.
Beginning this year, Denver Public Schools will have new bell times that align with the Board of Education’s Healthy Start Times resolution. To determine the new bell times, we relied on feedback and data collected throughout the district from surveys and conversations with our DPS community. A total of six of our 204 schools will have full or partial transportation cuts.
These decisions were not taken lightly. To reduce the overall impact of transportation cuts, we looked at utilization rates to see how many students were using each route. Then we factored in the Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL) percentage of riders assigned to each route. By prioritizing rider utilization and FRL percentages, we were able to ensure that our families, who most rely on transportation, will continue to be able to access their buses to the greatest extent possible.
Whatever the reason, Steele said the decision needs to be reversed before the first bell.
"We're scared about how we're going to get our children to school and home safely — something we hadn't thought about," Steele said.
Parents at the six affected schools plan to meet at the DPS school board meeting on August 21 at 5 p.m. Steele said they plan to voice their concerns during the public comment session.