Busing a key issue as DPS returns to in-person classes

Jeremy P. Kelley, Dayton Daily News, Ohio
·2 min read

Feb. 24—When Dayton Public Schools students return to full in-person classes Monday, the district will be returning to its busing model from two years ago.

DPS high school students will not have bus transportation regularly available, while students in grades K-8 will ride the the district's yellow buses.

In summer 2019, the school board announced a multimillion-dollar contract with RTA to run limited-service routes to the district's high schools, in an attempt to boost student attendance. But that plan was canceled a year later, after attendance rose slightly in the first six-plus months, before the COVID pandemic hit.

DPS Business Manager Gary Dickstein said Tuesday that high school principals will have access to some pre-paid RTA bus passes, but district officials did not elaborate on the policy for using those.

On Tuesday, DPS and Dayton Police officials urged drivers to be careful next week, as a full complement of school buses hits Dayton streets for the first time in almost a year. School-zone speed limits will be reactivated, and bus-passing laws will be enforced, as many students will resume walking to school, some in the dark, as DPS schools open as early as 7 a.m.

"We implore community members to exercise caution as they drive through Dayton," said Richard Wright, chief of safety and security for DPS. "Our students are excited to be back in the classroom, and we want to make sure the roads are as safe as possible for them."

Wright said about 75% of DPS students have opted to return to in-person classes, with the other 25% staying fully online. That lower in-person capacity will help the district somewhat with physical distancing efforts.

Wright said all qualifying K-8 students who wanted to ride the bus to school have been assigned to routes. DPS spokeswoman Alex Kincaid said DPS buses will follow the same COVID safety measures that classrooms do, with masks mandatory, barriers between drivers and students, surfaces sanitized between rides, and buses loaded back to front so students do not pass one another while entering or exiting.

Like all Ohio public schools, DPS is responsible for the transportation of qualifying charter and private school students who live within district boundaries. Those entities had a spat last summer after DPS suggested it might put charter and private school students on its RTA limited-service buses.

District officials did not respond to questions Tuesday about any changes in busing procedures for charter or private school students.

Dave Taylor, superintendent of the DECA charter schools, said DPS has been transporting their K-8 students on district yellow buses this school year when DECA has been in its hybrid model.

"Our expectation is that things will run as they have been on our current routing and schedule ... unless we hear otherwise," Taylor said.