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Phoenix-Talent students taking charter buses, for now

Why are Phoenix-Talent students being picked up and dropped off by Emerald Charters buses?

— no name given

Because those are the only local buses available.

Phoenix-Talent Superintendent Brent Barry said administrators found out on the Friday of spring break, March 26, that First Student, the company that supplies bus service for most of the schools in the Rogue Valley, would not be able to cover the mid-day routes for Phoenix High School for a few weeks. Unless an alternative plan was concocted, and fast, high school students who couldn’t catch a ride would be out of luck.

“So we had staff scramble to come up with alternative plans,” Barry said. “We’re pretty unique. We have students we’re picking up from Eagle Point, Central Point, Gold Hill.”

Barry said the general shortage of school bus drivers locally is to blame, but the problem goes deeper than that. The district had been borrowing bus drivers from other districts to meet its need, so as other local districts began to open up, those bus drivers went back to work on their usual routes. That left Phoenix-Talent high and dry.

“It was a little bit of a panic,” Barry said.

Barry and other district administrators, including Tiffany Lambert, the assistant superintendent of academics and student programs, quickly got to work going over their options.

“(Lambert) got a team together that’s been working on some busing challenges for a while.”

They worked over the weekend to establish routes, partner with Emerald Charters and request a waiver from the Oregon Department of Education. When the partnership came together and the waiver granted, the high-schoolers had their rides back before families even knew they were in jeopardy.

Emerald Charters will cover those bus routes through April 9, after which the district will begin offering full-day school to elementary students and will no longer have the same need for mid-day drivers.

Between now and then, Phoenix-Talent students will be bused to school in relative style. So far, they haven’t complained.

“Oh, my gosh,” Barry said, “that first day they were reclining the seats, they were flipping down the TV monitors hoping to get a movie on. Some of those kids had never been on a charter bus or even seen one. Now they’re riding in luxury. It was pretty cool to see the smiles on their faces.”

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.