OPS to cut transportation services for 3,000 students next year as driver shortages continue


Justin Diep

Seatbelts everyone! Buses line up at the west side of the school waiting to take kids home on the last day of the first semester.

Justin Diep, Editor in Chief

 The Omaha Public Schools Board of Education unanimously approved changes to transportation eligibility for the next school year as a solution to ongoing bus driver shortages nationwide.  

“Ultimately, our challenge really is a math problem, the number of routes we need to run to transport our students today in our current student assignment plan is greater than the number of bus drivers we have,” OPS Chief of Operations Charles Wakefield said.  

Since the start of the school year, both OPS and Student Transportation of America, OPS’s transportation vendor, increased bus driver salaries and offered hiring bonuses to try and attract drivers but it was not enough. The district has about 15% of their routes not covered by a full-time bus driver.  

The new plan will increase the distance a student needs to live to be eligible for transportation. Elementary school students would now have to live at least 1.5 miles away from their school instead of 1 mile and middle school students will need to live at least 2 miles away instead of 1.5 miles.  

The plan also increases the maximum distance a student can walk to a bus stop from their home by two blocks. Elementary school students will now walk a maximum of four blocks from two, middle school students will walk a maximum of six blocks from four and high school students will have to walk a maximum of eight blocks from six.  

The goal of the plan is to ensure every student will have an assigned bus driver to provide safe and reliable transportation. Currently, some routes are underserved, and families are left waiting at bus stops not knowing if one is coming at all.  

“The one thing that’s truly unfair is to tell a family or student that we’re going to have a bus for you and have them standing at the bus stop knowing full well that bus isn’t going to come because there’s not a driver,” OPS board member Spencer Head said. 

The district ran through multiple scenarios including adjusting school schedules and rerouting every student, but the new guidelines had the least impact on families. 

“It’s not in our nature to want to take things away from the people that we serve,” OPS Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Logan said. 

Donna Polk, CEO of Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition, spoke before the board to express her concerns for student safety with the increased home-to-bus stop distance.  

“We realized in the work that we do that many of these students, they want to go to school but to say to them that you need to walk down this way past this dog or pass this gunfire it’s not realistic for them,” she said.  

The district said it will monitor home-to-bus stop distances to avoid major roadways and other factors such as lack of sidewalks for student safety.  

The new eligibility guidelines would cut about 50 routes and 3,000 students from transportation to align the total number of routes with the number of av 

Families will be notified in March of their transportation eligibility after the school selection process is complete and bus routes will be announced in August. Families can also access the district Student Assignment Plan here.  

The new plan will not affect school choice through the student assignment plan, high school transportation eligibility and special education transportation. The high school transportation eligibility was changed this school year to accommodate for the openings of Buena Vista and Westview High Schools.  

The December 12, 2022, OPS Board of Education Meeting can be watched here.