Omaha Public Schools hosts meetings to review planned changes for student bus rides

To address ongoing issues with student transportation, OPS officials plan to increase minimum distances and school bus pick-up ranges.
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Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 6:41 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Omaha Public Schools is halfway through their meetings to review proposed changes for student busing in the 2023-24 school year.

OPS families were notified Monday that the district was pushing for adjustments to student transportation policies as a means of addressing ongoing issues stemming from a shortage of qualified drivers.

The notice acknowledges ongoing issues with the district’s transportation vendor and offers recommendations for adjustments in order to address them in the next school year.

In the proposal, are the following changes to current student busing parameters:

  • Eligible distance for busing for elementary students would increase from 1 mile home-to-school distance to 1.5 miles; and from 1.5 miles to 2 miles for middle school students.
  • Bus stop ranges would increase by two blocks for each grade level, putting the maximum walking distance to a bus stop at four blocks for elementary students, six blocks for middle-school students, and eight blocks for high schoolers.
  • Increasing the number of students scheduled per bus

“The home-to-school distances recommended for transportation eligibility are the same distances used by Omaha Public Schools prior to 2015,” the letter states.

Some district parents are expressing concerns over the new changes.

“That’s the whole reason that they go to OPS, because they have transportation,” says Deisy Hernandez, a mom of two students in the district, who both rely on school bussing.

“I work as a nurse, 12-hour shifts, so it’s hard to be able to know what time I’m going to pick them up, it’s hard to get someone to pick them up and make adjustments because one of them gets in earlier and gets out earlier,” Hernandez adds.

“I looked us up on the map, we’re 1.6 miles away from the elementary school and they said 1.5 is the cut-off, so I guess it depends where exactly they draw the line,” says another district parent, Elisha Muhleka.

While it’s not entirely clear if her elementary schoolers will lose their bus service, she still has some concerns if they don’t lose it.

Changes to the bus eligibility include students of all ages - elementary, middle, and high schoolers - walking as many as two blocks further to get to and from their bus stop.

“I would not feel comfortable at all sending a kindergartener or even a first grader four blocks away where you can’t see them, so I’m really not sure what the plan is, I guess it just depends where they put the stop,” Muhleka adds.

Both parents recognize the district needs to make some sort of change, but they aren’t sure if this is the right move.

“For our family, we can attempt to be flexible, we have two working parents but we also have two vehicles so we can switch things around, but there are some people who don’t have transportation and 1.5 miles is a long way for a little kiddo to walk,” Muhleka says.

“I understand that they don’t know what to do, but there has to be something else they can work around because this is just a big change for everyone, especially as a parent and figuring out what we have to do to get them to school,” Hernandez adds.

The OPS school board is expected to receive the recommended updates at its Monday, Dec. 12, meeting. Ahead of that, the district plans to have informational meetings for student families.

OPS informational meetings

The district has posted an FAQ about the proposed changes on its website and is also planning online and in-person meetings for those wishing to hear directly from district staff.

Tuesday’s meeting was a virtual meeting via Teams. A couple of people attended the Wednesday evening meeting in the TAC Board Room.

Two more meetings are planned:

  • 6-7 p.m. Thursday in the Benson High Cafeteria; Burmese, Karen, and Karenni-speaking liaisons will be available at this meeting.
  • 9-10 a.m. Saturday in the South High Auditorium; Spanish-speaking liaisons will be available at this meeting.

Watch an OPS video about the proposed changes

View this video in Spanish