Record enrollment aids swell of bus ridership

JONESBORO — Officials said they are working through challenges caused by record student enrollment in Clayton County Public Schools.

Among those challenges are over-crowded school buses.

Spokeswoman Vicki Constantinides said the district is adding school buses and hiring as many as 20 more licensed drivers to address a growing need.

Thousands more students are loading buses this year thanks in part to a policy change making more students eligible for transportation services. But a spike in enrollment has officials looking for ways to accommodate students with extra personnel in the classroom as well as additional buses on their routes to the schoolhouse.

Last spring, the board of education approved an amendment to its Policy ED for Student Transportation Management, which expands services to elementary students living 1 mile or more from their assigned zoned school. The policy remained the same for middle and high school students who are eligible if they live 1.5 miles away.

Officials estimated that as many as 2,000 students would be added to routes as a result of the policy change.

However, the district also added 1,250 students this year to its rolls to reach a record enrollment of 53,384.

“This is the largest enrollment we have had ever,” said Constantinides, noting many more students are eligible for transportation services than last year.

She expects this year’s student ridership will far exceed the 27,912 riders reported this past January.

She said the district is adding more buses to the 429-bus fleet and doubling up on its three-tier routes.

“We do a lot of things to mitigate the numbers on the buses,” said Constantinides. “The safety of students and staff is of extreme importance to Clayton County Public Schools.

“We would do nothing to deliberately put our students in danger,” she added. “Their safety is of paramount importance to us.”

Constantinides said parents who have concerns about school bus issues should contact their assigned school or the school district. To learn more about bus routes, visit www.clayton.k12.ga.us.