Transportation Update from the Superintendent - September 28th

Message sent September 28, 2023

Good afternoon West Shore students, families and staff,
Next week we will return to our regular schedule with all students learning in person October 2-4, a scheduled remote learning day on October 5, and Fall Break on October 6 and October 9.
For the next two weeks, our intention is to transport all students assigned a bus stop to and from school each day; however, adjustments to pick up and drop off times will continue to be necessary as our existing drivers cover multiple runs. We acknowledge that late arrivals and early dismissals will likely result in loss of instructional time at all levels, and as a result, building administration will continue to adapt daily schedules to reduce the effects to particular class periods.
Notifications - There are instances when last minute call offs, mechanical issues, or traffic congestion will result in additional changes to the bus runs, and to the best of our ability, we will notify families of changes to their child’s transportation times the evening before they occur via email, phone, and text.
Bus Numbers - Because some drivers are covering multiple runs, the bus number painted on the bus may not match the bus run assigned in PowerSchool. Drivers will display the correct number in the window. In the morning, we ask that students and adults look for those signs. At departure, staff will help direct students to their correct buses.
Family Provided Transportation - As is always an option, families may choose to take their child to school and/or pick them up at the end of the day. We realize this will likely result in additional traffic congestion on the roads around and leading into our campuses. Your patience is appreciated, and your assistance in having your child ready to exit your car quickly is necessary to keep the flow of cars moving.
Bus Driver Vacancies - In the last week, First Student had one driver complete their training and become licensed. Four additional drivers are in training and making progress towards their license. Several other candidates are preparing to test for their permits and completing background checks. Additionally, recruitment staff and trainers have joined us from other First Student locations to help onboard our new drivers as quickly as possible. As we have noted several times, the training and licensing process takes time. Both the District and First Student are committed to removing barriers and obstacles that might deter or delay prospective drivers. 
Transportation Survey - Approximately 2,720 students were represented on the Transportation Survey (only 45% of those who receive District transportation). Assuming those who did not participate need the District to continue providing the service, nearly 71% of our District transported students would not be able to attend school if a bus/van was not provided for them. As we continue to rethink how we provide transportation for our students and examine possible solutions to the bus driver challenge, it is clear that a model where students would be asked to attend school if they could provide their own transportation is not in the best interest of the majority of students. 
We recognize that the adjustments we have had to make to our regular student schedule, whether due to weather or transportation challenges, have required families to make adjustments to their work and personal schedules as well. Your continued flexibility, patience and understanding is greatly appreciated. I also share my appreciation for the bus drivers and Miss Kristen Pepperman, Supervisor of Transportation. These individuals have been working long hours under stressful circumstances and have shown tremendous dedication and commitment to the students and families of the District. Lastly, I want to acknowledge all staff who have adjusted lessons and found creative ways to maintain instructional continuity. 
These are not ideal conditions for anyone. We will continue our work with First Student to recruit and retain drivers.  We will keep our school community updated on any changes to our ability to transport our students, and we remain optimistic that we will see continued improvements in the situation.  
Todd B. Stoltz, Ed.D.
[email protected]

Message sent September 22, 2023
Good afternoon West Shore students, families and staff,
As I shared last week, Red Land, Cedar Cliff and Crossroads will continue to rotate between in person and remote learning from September 25-29. We will follow the same day of the week rotation used for week one; however, we will shift to a new Zoom schedule.
Beginning September 25, the Zoom schedule used by the secondary schools during these transportation-related remote learning days will be extended to allow for an increase of instructional time. 
  • Red Land and Cedar Cliff High School Students - at the high school level the new schedule will mirror the regular school day with classes beginning at 7:37 a.m. and ending at 2:45 p.m.
  • Crossroads Middle School Students - at the middle school level, music ensembles will begin at 7:38 a.m. and all students will log on to their first period class at 8:19 a.m. with classes ending at 2:45 p.m.
Each period will include a minimum of 30 minutes of direct, teacher-led, Zoom instruction with teachers remaining online for the remainder of the instructional period for one-on-one or group work. Zoom links will continue to be provided via Schoology. There will not be Zoom links for Flex or Lunch periods.
Based on feedback received from parents, students and staff, we feel this extended day will address many of the challenges faced by students this week who are taking classes at other campuses. It will also better meet the needs of students taking advanced coursework and those who will benefit from more time with their teachers. The breaks between classes are included to allow students to stretch, eat, and reset off camera between their classes. 
  • Monday, September 25 – Red Land
  • Tuesday, September 26 – Cedar Cliff
  • Wednesday, September 27 – Crossroads
  • Thursday, September 28 – Red Land
  • Friday, September 29 – Cedar Cliff
Since my last message, we received a number of suggestions on ways to respond to the driver shortage and feedback on the negative effects of remote learning. We share your concerns about the loss of instructional time and continue to evaluate our options. As you can imagine, every possible solution comes with its own set of challenges. However, no suggestion or idea is going without consideration. 
For those who are wondering why can't teachers teach the students who can get to school and live stream those who have transportation issues, we did not use a hybrid delivery model during the pandemic because of the challenges created in teaching in-person and online simultaneously. We are not currently in a position to offer this learning model, but we are considering it as a possibility.
Lastly, one of the options being explored is relying on some families to provide transportation for their student(s) and rerouting the District to meet the needs of those families unable to do so. In the coming days, you will be receiving a survey relative to this concept. While not an official commitment to opt-out of District transportation, the survey will help us gauge interest and availability to determine if this is a viable option.
I want to end my message with some encouraging news. Thanks to word of mouth and media coverage, we have seen a promising increase in the number of applicants to First Student. The process from application to obtaining a CDL license is minimally three weeks. So, while there appears to be relief coming, we do still have some challenging days ahead. Thank you again for your patience and support.
Todd B. Stoltz, Ed.D.
[email protected]

Message sent September 16, 2023

Good afternoon West Shore students, families and staff,

Faced with an inability to provide transportation to all students, the District will utilize remote learning days for select secondary schools for the next two weeks. On these days, students who attend the designated school will be learning from home following a modified schedule with teacher-led, online Zoom classes.

Students attending select Special Education classes and all other school buildings will report for in person learning at their respective schools.

Although your student may not be impacted at this time, this message is being sent to all District families and staff so everyone is aware of what is occurring should similar remote days become necessary in the future.
    Monday, September 18 – Red Land
    Tuesday, September 19 – Cedar Cliff
    Wednesday, September 20 – Crossroads
    Thursday, September 21 – Red Land
    Friday, September 22 – Cedar Cliff
    Monday, September 25 – Red Land
    Tuesday, September 26 – Cedar Cliff
    Wednesday, September 27 – Crossroads
    Thursday, September 28 – Red Land
    Friday, September 29 – Cedar Cliff

High School Remote Schedule - High School students in music ensembles will begin at 9:00 a.m. and all other students will begin at 9:30 a.m. The Zoom schedule and links will be provided via Schoology.

Middle School Remote Schedule - Middle school classes will begin at 9:30 a.m. and end at 12:28 p.m. Select music ensembles will be held from 12:30-1:00 p.m. The Zoom schedule and links will be provided via Schoology.

Breakfast and Lunch Service for ALL Students - Breakfast and lunch will be available for students learning in person or remotely. Meals will be served in the cafeteria and must be eaten at school. Times when the cafeteria will be open on days when the school is scheduled for remote instruction will be shared by the school.

Cumberland Perry Area Career and Technical Center (CPACTC) 
- Just as on other scheduled remote days or days when the District calendar differs from CPACTC, transportation will be provided from the student’s home to their high school for families who signed up at the start of the school year. Students who did not request to be picked up will be responsible for providing their own transportation to Cedar Cliff/Red Land to board the transfer bus to CPACTC. Student attendance is expected at CPACTC each day regardless of whether their high school is learning in person or remotely. High school staff understand there may be conflicts between the Zoom and CPACTC schedule.

Special Education - Students in Autism Support (AS), Life Skills Support (LSS), Multiple Disabilities Support (MDS), and Emotional Support (ES) classes will attend in person regardless of the rotation schedule listed above. District transportation will be provided from the student’s home. Only if there is a change to a student’s regular bus number or pick up time, will their family receive an update from the Transportation Department this weekend.

Please note, if your child attends Hilltop Academy, New Story or another out-of-district school, they are not impacted by the transportation challenges and will report to school as normal.

The District’s Transportation Department and First Student have been working incredibly hard to find creative ways to provide coverage for vacancies and occasions when drivers are sick or otherwise unavailable. Your patience as drop-off and pick-up times were adjusted these last few weeks has been greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, we are now at a point where we can no longer support the transportation needs of the entire District until the newly hired drivers are trained and available to begin their routes.

The three secondary schools rotating between in person and remote learning were selected based on several factors including the fact that they were not impacted by the heat-related issues earlier in the school year. Additionally, when selecting days for each school, thought was given to how it would impact already scheduled building-based activities that are important to our students and families.

Come drive for us. - If you can’t drive, please encourage anyone you know who may be interested and available to contact First Student at 717-938-8788 or apply online.

Let your child’s driver(s) know they are valued. - Many of our current drivers are picking up extra routes at the last minute to help. We are so grateful for their commitment and dedication. Please join us in letting them know how much they are appreciated.

Speak to your child about their bus behavior. – This school year we have seen an increase in inappropriate student behavior on the bus. While we continue to address these incidents at the building level, we can use your help in reminding your child to follow these rules:

    Sit properly in your assigned seat, facing front at all times.
    Do not stand up or leave your seat while the bus is in motion.
    Do not yell, shout, or use inappropriate language/gestures.
    Be respectful of the driver and other students.
    Be cooperative and follow directives given by the driver.

As a reminder, adults are not permitted to get on the bus while it is transporting students. This school year we have had multiple occasions where family members have boarded the bus and addressed another family’s child. This behavior threatens the safety of the students and the driver, and it is against the law.

While speaking with families this week, the question was asked…how much longer will these transportation adjustments be needed? I wish I had a definitive answer for you. We have contacted other transportation services, but they are not able to assist us. And, while we have several candidates who are working through the training process to be hired as drivers, some resignations continue to occur.

While I can’t tell you how much longer adjustments to our schedule will be necessary, I can promise you that we remain committed to finding ways to return to a sense of normalcy and to offer transportation so that all students can learn in person every day. Until that is possible, your understanding, flexibility and support is greatly appreciated.
Todd B. Stoltz, Ed.D.
[email protected]

Message sent August 24, 2023
Good afternoon West Shore students, staff, and families,
As we prepare for the start of the 2023-2024 school year, I wanted to make you aware of some issues we are facing in our Transportation Department and to ask for your patience and assistance.
Driver Shortage
We continue to struggle with a shortage of school bus drivers. Currently we have 10 openings, that is 20 bus runs between the morning and the afternoon, without a designated driver each day. These vacancies do not account for the challenge to transport students to afterschool activities or to quickly respond to phone calls and email messages when office staff are needed behind the wheel.
To the best of our ability, we will provide families with as much advance notice as possible when delays are anticipated. However, it is important for families to be prepared. Please make sure you have a plan in place for who will wait with your child in the morning if the bus is running late or who will available to meet your child at the bus stop in the afternoon if their bus run is delayed.
First Student is Hiring
First Student, our transportation contractor, is currently offering:
  • $20.00 per hour starting wage with flexible schedules
  • $3,000 Sign-on Bonus for fully licensed bus drivers 
  • $2,000 Sign-on Bonus for new bus drivers 
  • $1,000 Sign-on Bonus for van drivers
  • Paid CDL training 
  • Child ride along program  
If you, or someone you know, may be interested in becoming a bus or van driver, even for just a few hours a day, please contact First Student at 717-938-8788 or apply online
Changes in Student Transportation Assignments
Lastly, to help things run smoothly on the first day, please take a few moments this weekend to review your child’s bus information available on the PowerSchool website. We have had several new students enroll in the District since PowerSchool opened on August 14, so your child’s bus number and/or arrival time may have changed. 
In addition, I hope I can count on your patience as new bus drivers learn routes, traffic increases with the addition of student drivers, and school staff and drivers work together to ensure each student is loaded safely onto the correct bus and dropped off at the appropriate location. As these new routines are established, delays often occur. 
I realize these are not ideal conditions for anyone; students, families, or bus drivers. On behalf of the Transportation Department, thank you for your understanding, patience, and support. 
Best wishes for a great first day!  

Todd B. Stoltz, Ed.D.
[email protected]

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