Davenport Catholic schools take pro-active approach to bus driver shortage

Contributed
A student from St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Davenport boards a school bus Jan. 10.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — The morning of Jan. 3, parents and school administrators of public and Catholic schools woke up to a school cancellation due to a bus driver shortage.

Later that day, the principals of the three Catholic elementary schools in Davenport collaborated to ensure that their schools would remain open going forward if buses were not available. However, the principals said they will follow the public school district’s policy regarding cancellation or late start due to weather.

Chad Steimle, principal of John F. Kennedy School, said about 26% of his students are registered for morning bus rides and 35% for the afternoon. However, he sees a “huge difference in registered riders and those who actually use the bus.” The percentage of actual bus riders on a regular basis is much lower.

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Julie Delaney, principal of St. Paul the Apostle School, said about 36% of students are registered to take the bus, but many families rotate between using the bus or using aftercare and then picking up the kids.

In the future, if Davenport cancels bus service again, the principals, including Jeanne Von Feldt of All Saints School, will work with families to make options available. If a solution cannot be found, student absences will be excused at the elementary level, with the ability to make up school work.

Steimle said, “We can work with families to help put them in contact with one another for car pools and for how we can care for their children at school whenever they do need to arrive or for however long they would need to stay. Hopefully, we’re not talking about an everyday long-term situation. We believe that, together, families and school personnel can be flexible enough to accommodate everyone’s needs.”

Delaney said, “We have before-care that begins at 7 a.m. and our after-care goes until 5:30 p.m. We have room for additional students. The cost is minimal but in unique situations we will waive the fee. We will work with parents to do what works best for their schedule and circumstances. If the students need to arrive late or leave early in order to have a ride, no problem. They will be excused.”

“We will also connect parents to families who have volunteered to drive other students whose parents are unable to get them to school. Our hope is that with families carpooling, before/aftercare and flexibility, we can get all of the students to school on days when buses don’t run due to driver shortage.”

In an email to All Saints’ families, Von Feldt said, “Student learning is of the utmost importance to our values and mission as Catholic schools. We recognize the tremendous value of student, teacher and peer interactions within the school setting. We hope you have come to trust that we will do everything we can to maintain the ongoing opportunity for in-person teaching and learning within our schools. With regard to the circumstances of today’s situation, we realize that transportation is an important issue that impacts the daily workings of family and routines. That said, we also recognize the importance of flexibility in an effort to hold true to our values and mission.”

“If Davenport busing is not available to families due to lack of drivers tomorrow or in the future, our schools will still be in session. On these days, if your child is a Davenport bus rider, and transportation to or from school presents a challenge that you cannot solve, please contact the school office to report your child will be absent or late coming to school for that day. We as a school understand and will be flexible with students who might need to adjust arrival/departure times on these days.”


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