Robbinsdale Area Schools

October 5, 2021: Transportation Update from Superintendent David Engstrom

Dear Robbinsdale Area Schools Families, 

It is past time for me to acknowledge that, when it comes to transportation, we can’t give you a date by which everything in Robbinsdale Area Schools will be “back to normal.” It seems increasingly likely that, for many reasons, public schools – including ours – may never return to the way we knew them before Covid.

It’s time for me to tell some hard truths and to take steps I had never expected to take.

We were over-optimistic, or perhaps unrealistic, when we told you we might be able to improve the busing situation yet this fall. While we continue to add drivers to our routes, it has been and remains challenging to achieve bus service to all families at all schools.

To date, we have canceled 12 routes that we had hoped to have filled by the end of the month. As we are able to staff and reinstate bus routes, we will. We do not have substitute drivers, and we don’t have enough drivers to pick up extra shifts. This means that any family, on any given day, could be impacted by the bus driver shortage. 

Whether or not your student currently has a bus to school, I am asking you to plan for transportation alternatives, in case they are needed, for the rest of the school year. 

Our past practice has been to assign a bus seat for every student coming to school from outside the walk zones. If you have the ability to opt out of school bus transportation for the year, we need to know so we can fill bus seats with students whose families do not have that option.

You can help students and families by filling out this short survey by Friday, Oct. 15. 

We are now taking these additional steps: 

  • Based on results of the opt-out survey, we may redraw bus routes districtwide.

  • We are partnering with Metro Transit to provide bus tokens and multi-day passes to students who do not have transportation to school.

  • We are adding van service to help with transportation to and from school and for afterschool activities.

  • We are exploring the idea of offering temporary supervised student support for one hour before and one hour after school for families affected by the cancelation of the 12 bus routes. 

  • We will work on a case-by-case basis with families who want to transfer their students to Robbinsdale Virtual Academy. 

Unfortunately, I see further hardship ahead for many families and staff. It breaks my heart that the burden is heaviest for those least able to bear it. I regret that these problems come after 18+ months of still other hardships, caused by a pandemic that continues. 

Even with decades in education, I have never seen anything like this. You may be interested in this powerful perspective from Chris Stewart of Education Post.

You have my promise that Robbinsdale Area Schools will continue to do everything in our power to get our students to school and help them learn. I ask you to give us grace when things don’t work in an ideal way, and then give us more grace – because this year we are having to do things in ways we never have before. 

Your help with the opt-out survey will be greatly appreciated.

I will continue to listen and to respond as I am able. You can write me via Let’s Talk, and find updated answers to frequently asked questions about transportation here.

Sincerely,
 

David Engstrom
Superintendent