Chicago leaves 3,300 students stranded without a school bus ride

Chicago leaves 3,300 students stranded without a school bus ride

Chicago Public Schools’ shortage of school bus drivers has gotten worse. Sending kids to school with a rideshare driver makes some parents nervous.

Seventh grader Raúl Sámano waited for the school bus on what felt like a typical Friday morning. When he called his mother 10 minutes before the start of class at Maria Saucedo Elementary, five miles away, they both realized the bus was never coming.

Raúl’s father left work to take him to school. Thousands of other students are struggling with a lack of transportation because of a statewide school bus driver shortage.  The problem got worse in Chicago when 73 drivers quit as school started rather than comply with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

There were 2,100 Chicago Public Schools students stranded without a ride on the first day of classes. That number rose to 3,300 in September. Weeks later, the problem hasn’t improved.

Often, parents are put in a scramble without any notice of bus service cancellations.

“They should be calling the parents so we know what to do. That way we can make alternate choices,” said Raúl’s mother, Maria Sámano.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS have had discussions with rideshare companies Uber and Lyft as a temporary solution, but no deal has been made.

“We have to put a huge amount of faith and trust in CPS transportation just to put our kids on a school bus with an aide and a driver, and then to say, ‘You should just put them in a random Uber and we will reimburse you — it’s just ridiculous,” said Laurie Viets, a mother of three children with autism.

Qualifying families received $1,000 in the first month of school for transportation costs, and $500 for each month thereafter. Many families rely on the traditional school bus arrangement, and it can’t come back fast enough.

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