New Wake County students will now have to request bus service at least a month before classes start or risk not getting service at the start of the school year.
Starting with the 2014-15 school year, the Wake County school system will set cutoff dates for requesting bus service for families who are new to Wake or who have current students who want to ride for the first time. School administrators say they need to put in a “choke point” because allowing last-minute requests negatively impacts service.
“We don’t want to let these last-minute enrollments impact the vast majority of students that have been enrolled a month or longer before schools start and effectively have a small percentage impact the transportation quality and service for the vast majority of our students,” David Neter, Wake’s chief business officer, told the school board earlier this month.
The cutoff date for guaranteed bus service on the first day of school is June 6 for year-round schools, June 25 for modified-calendar schools and July 21 for traditional-calendar schools. The June 6 date applies for all four year-round tracks.
Families can begin requesting bus service online starting Friday.
For families who miss the cutoff date, their requests will be processed in the order received. Officials say they will make every effort to provide service using existing bus stops as quickly as possible.
To help with the change, Neter said the district will do more community outreach to encourage families to request bus service sooner. He cited Wake’s net gain of 2,400 traditional-calendar students in the month before classes started in August.
Current bus riders who are eligible for service next school year will automatically be assigned transportation.
Wake transports 76,000 bus riders on 932 buses that travel 100,000 miles a day to 25,000 bus stops.
Neter said the process of locking in bus routes a month before classes start has been used for years in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system.
He said the change will allow development of better routes and give drivers more time to practice them before classes begin. School officials also say the change will save money on fuel and maintenance because buses will travel shorter distances.