Wake Ed

Wake County may not let transfer students request bus service

The days when receiving student transfers in Wake County meant paying the price of absolutely not receiving school bus service could return.

Wake County school administrators are considering recommending that the school board eliminate the practice of allowing families who are ineligible for bus service to request transportation from the district. If implemented, the change would primarily impact families that receive transfers, such as people who are trying to be grandfathered from a student assignment change by asking to stay at their current school.

David Neter, Wake’s chief business officer, told school board members on Tuesday that reviewing these requests for transportation are taking too much of the staff’s time away from serving people who already have bus service.

“A significant amount of time and effort is being invested here,” Neter told the board. “It’s distracting from our ability to provide services to our customers.”

Neter told the board that the distractions are requests for “provision of service or even the review of accommodation of service to the parents that have an assignment that requires parent transportation.”

Historically, the price for receiving a transfer in Wake meant losing bus service. (We’re not talking about the early transfer period now in place where you get bus service if you’re accepted into your calendar-option school.)

But in June 2009, the board adopted policy 7105, which establishes a procedure for families ineligible for bus service to request transportation. This polivy came at a time when families were complaining about how more than 24,000 students could be reassigned over a three-year period.

Bob Snidemiller, Wake’s senior director of transportation, said most of these service requests are not approved. But the board policy does allow families to appeal rejections of bus service to the school board.

Neter told the board on Tuesday that the district handled 5,058 requests this school year for bus service from families whose student assignment requires them to provide their own transportation. He said the overwhelming majority of those requests were from families who had received voluntary transfer requests.

Neter said that each request requires transportation staff to confirm the family’s address, identify the closest bus route, review the impact of changing the route, run a simulation in the state’s Transportation Information Management System (TIMS), review morning and afternoon arrival times and review bus ridership/capacity.

Neter said it conservatively takes two man hours to handle each request. He said handling the 5,058 requests takes the equivalent of five man years.

Whether staff goes ahead with recommending the policy change and the board agrees to implement it remains to be seen.