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School year soon to start, but some parents say CPS hasn't given them answers on transportation

Some parents say CPS hasn't given them answers on transportation
Some parents say CPS hasn't given them answers on transportation 02:51

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Two weeks from the start of the school year, some parents are concerned that the Chicago Public Schools still have not given them a clear plan for transportation.

As CBS 2's Tim McNicholas reported Wednesday night, CPS is just one of many districts around the country dealing with a serious school bus driver shortage.

It's the time of year that any parents with kids in school are in planning mode. What supplies to the kids need? How do they sign up for sports? What will they wear?

But the question of how the kids will even get to school is one to which some parents still don't know the answer.

Laurie Viets and her family are wrapping up summer vacation with a road trip to Minnesota. But as Viets tries to map out the upcoming school year, that vacation is far from stress-free – because of that transportation worry.

McNicholas: "Has anybody told you definitively yes or no, there will be busing for your children?"

Viets: "No."

Viets' son, who wants to take the bus, has autism - so he is in what is known as an individualized education program, or an IEP.

To combat a nationwide bus driver shortage, CPS is offering parents of kids in IEPs a $500 monthly stipend to drive their kids instead of having them take the bus. But Viets' other kids go to a different school, so she refused the stipend.

"I cannot physically be at one school over there in Lincoln Park and one school over on Irving Park," Viets said. "So I made it very clear - I cannot transport them myself. I have no other way to get him to school. I will require busing."

But CPS still hasn't told Viets how they'll get her son to school.

The district released a statement Wednesday saying they will prioritize the transportation needs of students in IEPs, and routes are being developed now and will be shared prior to the school year:

"Chicago Public Schools (CPS) remains committed to providing transportation to all eligible students amid a national driver shortage. 

"To help address the national shortage, CPS hosted several job fairs and issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for transportation services which garnered CPS five new vendors for a total of 15 student transportation companies. CPS will continue its search for qualified vendors who can help meet students' transportation needs. 

"At the Chicago Board of Education July meeting, the Board approved a policy that prioritizes the transportation needs of children with diverse learning needs and students in temporary living situations. These students will be prioritized as CPS creates the routes for the new school year. The District is in the process of creating those transportation routes now and will communicate with families through email, phone calls, and postcards to share specific transportation details before the new school year begins on August 22. 

"Families who had requested 2022-23 transportation by the third week of July  for their students, including students in general education, have been approved for transportation, but the District expects it will receive additional requests prior to and following the start of school.

"CPS will honor our transportation obligations to those students who are most in need, beginning with children who have transportation services as part of their IEPs or 504 Plans and students in temporary living situations."

That is not much comfort to parents who still remember last fall, when a bus driver shortage left 2,000 CPS families scrambling for a ride on the first day.

"I would like to be able to just be like, 'OK, this is all set,'" Viets said.

The district also says they have added bus vendors and hosted job fairs to beef up their roster. They are also working with vendors to increase hourly wages for drivers.

"You'd think by now, they would know that they need to start making these plans for in advance," Viets said.

That $500 monthly stipend is available to each IEP student, and also to students experiencing homelessness. Another mom with a child in an IEP said she is in the same boat as Viets - no plan from CPS, just an offer for $500 per month.

CPS confirmed that families who refuse the $500 monthly stipend will be able to receive bus service. 

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