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Bentonville School District consider consolidating bus routes amid driver shortage

During a board work session last week, the director of transportation pitched the idea of removing routes to avoid more cancelations and delays.

BENTONVILLE, Ark — Bentonville Schools are considering consolidating bus routes to create a more reliable transportation system for families.

From August to November 25, 2022, the district says it had 152 late routes and 149 cancelled routes.

"Administration asked me to looking at ways to be more sustainable, be more effective and be able to add reliable bus service daily," said Bentonville Schools transportation director Jason Salmons. 

He says he's been in contact with surrounding school districts with consolidated bus stops. Those districts include Rogers, Fort Smith, Fayetteville and Springdale schools.

To combat the problem, last Thursday, Jan. 19, the district discussed removing its neighborhood stops and moving stops to general locations like churches and city parks in a one mile radius of most homes.

"Parents are going to have to get involved, like Jennifer said," said Salmons "And they're going to have to drive, walk and bike to this area. That's a big con."

The proposed consolidation would eliminate 29 of the district's daily routes, reducing daily routes from 118 to 89.

According to Salmons, this consolidation would save the district time, fuel and funds for bus maintenance all across the board.

The district says the inflated cost of bus maintenance, the bus driver shortage and an increase in bus riders is pushing the district to make some changes.

"When we look at total picture, the pros outweigh the cons in my opinion," said Salmons.

Noting is final, but right now, the district is weighing its options.

"We won't do anything, we will keep on our current plan until you as the board say 'Hey, we want to go this route,'" Salmons said. "This an option for us to look at going forward and I think it is a very sustainable option."

During the Thursday board work session, the proposed change was not voted on. It is not clear when a vote could happen but the board is set to meet on Feb. 21.  

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