November 2, 2021
BPS Families and Staff,
Despite our best efforts, the district has not been able to insulate ourselves from the severe shortage of workers that the state and community is currently experiencing. These staffing shortages extend well beyond just classroom teachers and include bus drivers, paraprofessionals and teacher assistants, custodians, child nutrition workers, and substitutes. Our district has also grown over 600 students in the past six months, nearly 9% since the end of the last school year. This is a positive trend but it has increased the strain on our capacity to adequately staff our schools. We currently have two dozen open teaching and support positions for which we have NO qualified applicants.
This shortage of qualified employees is particularly acute when it comes to bus drivers. This is due to the extensive and rigorous training and licensing requirements set forth in state and federal law. These high expectations are appropriate as there is nothing more important than the safety of our children when traveling to and from school each day. At the same time, these requirements make it very difficult to maintain a pool of substitute drivers to be able to respond to shortages when they occur.
As you might expect, the logistics associated with scheduling nearly 40 routes to transport over 3,500 children a day are extensive and complex. Due to the driver shortage, we already ask most of our transportation staff - including directors, mechanics, and administrative assistants - to leave their regular assignments to drive a route bus on many days. Yet, as we shared yesterday, the current shortage has caused us to exceed our capacity to adequately cover all of our routes.
While it would be easier to simply cancel the routes affected by this shortage, that would not be fair or equitable to the families we serve. Therefore, similar to what we did last year, we have developed an alternate schedule that more appropriately shares this impact.
Similar to the “rolling blackout” strategy used by power companies during peak energy use, this schedule will ask all families to make alternate arrangements for transportation on one day only. On the other days, students will ride their normal bus, but possibly with a different driver. Pickup and drop-off times will not be affected; however, there will be the potential for some delays due to having drivers who are not fully familiar with a new route.
The modified schedule will reduce one bus route for each elementary site each day. The table below shows the new schedule which will run through next Friday, Nov. 12. Buses listed for each day will NOT run any routes, elementary or secondary. We anticipate a return to our normal transportation schedule on Monday, Nov. 15.
While it might have been possible for many of our students to engage in distance learning tomorrow, there was not adequate time for teachers to plan for this day to ensure we could provide meaningful instruction for students. As a result, Wednesday will be a non-instructional day for students and school staff. Because we have extra hours built into our academic calendar, students will NOT have to make up this day. School sites will be closed tomorrow but the district offices will remain open. Our transportation department will be using the time to train drivers on extra routes they will be assigned according to the schedule shown above.
Students attending Tulsa Tech and TCC will attend those classes as normal and transportation will run on Wednesday.
The district remains focused on doing all we can to keep our schools open while also protecting the health and safety of our students and staff. Even with extensive and detailed planning, disruptions to our school calendar - like tomorrow’s - are sometimes unavoidable. We understand the challenges that these decisions create for our BPS families and greatly regret the inconvenience.