The Greensboro Transit Authority (GTA) counted 120 trips made by Guilford County Schools’ (GCS) high school students on the public city buses on January 10 and 85 trips on January 11.
Monday, January 10, was the first day of a new partnership between GTA, the High Point Transit and GCS to allow high school students to ride the public buses to and from school, free of charge.
On Friday, January 7, GCS Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras shared that 76 GCS bus drivers tested positive for COVID-19, causing a driver shortage. To remedy the lack of transportation for students, the new partnership will allow high school students to ride city buses for free if they show their student identification badges, also known as “One Cards.” According to the GTA website, high school students have always been able to ride the buses at a discounted price of 75 cents. Now students are able to ride for free.
“We are doing everything we can to keep our classrooms and schools open despite incredibly challenging circumstances,” said Dr. Sharon Contreras, superintendent of the Guilford County Schools. “We deeply appreciate everyone’s support and ask all parents that can transport their children to school to continue doing so.”
The eight high schools impacted in High Point and Greensboro are: Andrews High School, High Point Central, Kearns Academy, Dudley High School, Grimsley High School, Page High School, Smith High School and The Academy at Smith.
“As of this weekend, we don’t have enough bus drivers to continue serving all students, so we had to make some really difficult choices,” said Chief Operations Office Michelle Reed. “We are grateful to our partners in the City of Greensboro and the City of High Point for stepping up and filling the gap for us by providing free rides for GCS high school students, who live within their boundaries.”
While some bus routes go directly by students’ residences and to a bus stop by their school, some students will have to walk up to a mile to the bus stop and/or do a transfer at the main bus depot in Downtown Greensboro.
There was pushback from parents who held a meeting outside of school board offices on Sunday, January 9. Parents have also taken to social media to share their concerns such as, possible safety issues with students sitting on the bus with other adult riders, students getting dropped off during dark hours and COVID-19. Also, while drivers are required to stop for school buses, they are not legally required to stop for city buses. They also expressed some logistical concerns, such as ensuring students successfully transfer from one bus line to another and possible increases in tardiness and absences.
“The last couple of mornings we have had volunteers from GCS and GTA staff to help students get on their respective buses so they can safely get to their destinations,” said Kevin Elwood, GTA Communications Specialist. “Even though this came along last minute, everything has moved along very smoothly.”
The change does not affect elementary or middle school students, high school students whose schools are located outside of city boundaries and don’t have access to public transportation, high school students with disabilities who receive special transportation or magnet school students.
District leaders say that the change in transportation service is temporary; two weeks at least. However, Dr. Contreras indicated that the need to continue to use GTA services could be extended, depending on COVID-19 data. GCS will resume services for each of its 480 routes as soon as possible. GCS school buses typically travel 41,000 miles and transport nearly 39,000 students daily.
For parents and guardians concerned about safety in public transportation, Elwood notes that each GTA bus is equipped with cameras on both the interior and exterior, and professionally trained bus operators, should students have any questions or concerns.
To access city bus routes, parents and students can look online at the GTA page on the city’s website at www.greensboro-nc.gov, on goggle maps, or on a downloadable app called “Transloc Rider,” which shows a bus trip in real time.
Parents and guardians can find more information about this change, including how to access city routes, on the district’s website at www.gcsnc.com. Parents and guardians may also call (336) 370-8920 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Sunday or the Transportation hotline (888) 511-4GCS (4427) during the week.
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