By Kristen Hackbarth and Bob Conrad
Washoe County School District is starting off the school year with buses running on a rotation plan and mileage reimbursements for parents driving their kids to school on “off” weeks. The reimbursements were announced in a letter sent to parents last week.
The reimbursement is intended to cover the costs of driving students who normally ride the bus to and from school when their area is not being served during the weekly bus rotation. Parents who must drive their students to school that week can file a form to receive $0.625 per mile for the distance to and from the school.
The $0.625 per mile is the current federal mileage reimbursement rate and will be paid from the district’s general fund.
“Our goal is to end this at fall break.”
The school district’s transportation director Scott Lee said they’ll use a number of methods to verify the requests for reimbursement are accurate. Those checks include student attendance, student eligibility for transportation and removing duplicate requests.
Parents can find information on the reimbursement program at https://www.washoeschools.net/Page/18142. Reimbursements will be mailed to homes by check and should arrive within several weeks of the form being submitted.
For students who can’t get to school when a bus isn’t serving their area, district officials said they or their parents will need to reach out to teachers to try and make up the work. They also encouraged carpooling with other students to get to school if possible.
Information on the bus rotation areas and calendar are online at https://www.washoeschools.net/Page/18132.
Lee said the district doesn’t expect the mileage reimbursement program to continue for long.
“Our goal is to end this at fall break,” Lee said. “So through September, and then when we come back in October to have full transportation service again. If it’s possible to do it earlier than that, we’ll do it earlier than that.”
The full transportation service would likely still include the transportation hubs program where students walk to a more central location for pickup.
Lee said the district has had an uptick in people applying for bus driver positions and the department is down to 28 vacancies, a decrease from late July when there were 40 open jobs.
“We do have 35 in training or scheduled for training, we have nine actively training, we have another group starting on Aug. 22,” Lee said, adding that it takes three to four weeks to get through all of the training.
“It’s a much shorter time if they’re already licensed, and already have the proper endorsements,” he added. “But we can expect them to come out in groups of 10 or 12 as each training scope is completed, and then we’ll be rolling them back in. As we do so we’ll be eliminating some sections and neighborhoods from the area rotation list and providing more services.”