Big Walnut adjusts bus routes


SUNBURY — The Big Walnut Local School District recently changed some of its bus routes.

The new routes began on Feb. 1, eliminating 240 miles per day and four routes. However, no one has lost transportation, the district said.

“I want to start out by thanking everyone — the bus drivers, staff, families and students for adjusting to the bus routing change we made a few weeks ago,” Superintendent Ryan McLane said at last month’s Big Walnut Board of Education meeting. “Although there were a few hiccups, I believe it is working out the way we had hoped.”

The change entailed combining the intermediate school/high school routes with the middle school routes. There were some changes to routes, pick-up and drop-off times, and bus stop locations. Most of the elementary school routes were unchanged, with three smaller routes split up.

“On average, students will spend less time on the bus; all routes are now less than 50 minutes long compared to the current routes, with some going as long as 1.5 hours,” the district said when the changes were announced. This is by using what is called a “hub and transfer” route to be more efficient.

The changes were made necessary due to staffing issues.

“As you may be aware, we have been experiencing transportation issues due to a bus driver shortage, which is an issue state and nationwide,” McLane said on the district’s website in January. “At this time, we are no longer able to sustain our current busing system…We appreciate your patience and understanding on this necessary transition.”

The district said in a frequently asked questions section that it was necessary to make the transition mid-year.

“If the number of routes is not reduced by February, the District will have to start canceling, delaying the start, delaying the release, and early dismissing routes regularly,” the district said when the announcement was made. “Currently, the district has 34.5 daily routes and only 32 contracted drivers. The other routes are filled with sub-drivers and the transportation office staff… if all of our subs drive every day and no one calls off sick, we will be able to cover our routes. If a substitute is unavailable to drive or a driver calls in sick, we will not be able to cover the route. This will result in parents not knowing when their bus will be coming and who their driver will be.”

The district added the new routes allow it to have more drivers available to cover routes if needed. There may also be some relief ahead.

“Currently, there are two people being trained and they should have their licenses by spring break. This will allow the transportation department to be fully staffed for the first time in a long time,” the district said. “When you can find a candidate, it takes about 4-6 months to train a driver.”

The Big Walnut Local School District covers 110 square miles. Three full-time mechanics service a fleet of 44 buses at the district garage, 117 N. Kintner Pkwy., Sunbury.

“Each day over 3,000 students are transported to our seven buildings and 90 students are transported to non-public schools,” said the Transportation Department section of the district website. “Each day district buses travel over 3,000 miles to safely transport students to and from school. In addition, buses transport students to and from athletic and other extra-curricular events.”

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Assistant Editor Gary Budzak covers the eastern half of Delaware County and surrounding areas. He may be reached at [email protected].

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