Do FWISD bus challenges disproportionately affect schools of choice? The district responds
When the final bell signals the end of the day at Fort Worth ISD’s Applied Learning Academy, students wait in the cafeteria for the school bus.
Sitting there, some wait and wait and wait. Buses are scheduled to arrive when class lets out at 4:30 p.m. – some days, buses don’t arrive until 6 p.m.
Ale Checka, an eighth grade English teacher at Applied Learning Academy, a district school of choice campus, said her students and others at Fort Worth ISD schools of choice, are facing continued transportation challenges.
“For some kids, it’s two hours to get home,” Checka said. “For middle school, getting out at 4:30 in the afternoon, that’s an unreasonable thing to put on an 11-year-old.”
Myron Wilson, Fort Worth ISD’s executive director of transportation, acknowledged the district does face day-to-day challenges often in regard to transportation to and from these campuses.
“There’s problems with efficiency,” Wilson said. “But we’re still going to get those students to their programs and back home.”
Students who enroll in applied learning programs such as culinary or aviation, are sent to specific schools that offer them. Applied Learning Academy, for instance, offers an applied learning curriculum for sixth to eighth graders.
Students from all over the district can enter into these specific hands-on learning programs, depending on availability, but not all district campuses offer them.
Because school of choice bus drivers must pick students up from bus stops all over the district, obstacles are bound to pop up, Wilson said.
Busing a student living in Fort Worth’s Northside neighborhood to the Applied Learning Academy in Rosemont, for example, takes significantly longer than if they were busing within the school’s attendance zone.
“For general schools, there’s a 2-mile setup where we’ll bus a student if they live within a 2-mile radius of the campus,” Wilson said. “If they go to a school of choice 10 to 15 miles away, though, we’ll still bus them.”
It just may take more time, he said.
Fort Worth ISD school of choice parent Ramon Martinez said the unpredictability of the buses makes it harder for his high school student to get on a routine.
“It seems like they can’t even get enough bus drivers for the school of choice schools,” Martinez said.
Another parent, Mindy Campos, said the district shouldn’t push these programs to students and parents if there are issues with transportation.
“We’re absolutely getting killed in recruitment by charter schools. It’s hard for a parent to say, ‘I would love for my kid to go to this school, but you have to figure out your transportation issue first,’” she said.
It’s an issue for schools of choice, she said, which have a place in the district to serve as an opportunity measure for students.
“No matter where you live in Fort Worth, you should have access to a really cool program,” Checka said. “We have this great school, we invite you to come here, but you’re going to spend your early evening in a school cafeteria?”
In 2021, Fort Worth ISD faced a bus driver shortage, Wilson said, making it hard for students at all schools across the district to get to class on time.
The district has addressed that for the most part, he said, though the transportation department is always looking for more drivers. At most schools, buses run smoothly and on time.
For Checka, and parents of school of choice students across the district, they just hope their students have that same experience, and no longer have to wait in cafeterias.
Matthew Sgroi is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com or @MatthewSgroi1 on X, formerly known as Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.