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The start of the 2023-2024 school year was met with familiar challenges – bus delays, driver shortages and uncontrollable weather patterns.
“These are the hurdles we expect at the start of any school year,” said Las Cruces Public Schools Interim Superintendent Sherley O’Brien. “But not having solutions that our students and families can depend on is unacceptable.”
Tuesday, O’Brien and several LCPS administrative staff met with STS of New Mexico, the contracted bus company for the district, to discuss ongoing bus delays and remedies. STS acknowledges they haven’t been able to keep up with turnover after retirements and vacancies. They are currently looking at other strategies to get qualified drivers behind the wheel, but that could take time.
“As a district, we are allocating every resource we have to alleviate the stress of these delays,” added O’Brien. “We send additional staff to schools who have students waiting on busses, we’re looking at providing drinks and snacks to those students and we are communicating with families about what we know up to this point.”
As all students returned to school last week, traffic issues throughout the city, coupled with new drivers, caused some students’ routes to be delayed for up to two hours. Office staff at STS were unable to keep up with the volume of calls from parents, as relief drivers in the office pitched in to drive routes.
As the bus company works to resolve these issues, STS of New Mexico has a smart phone app for parents that will send text message updates on delays and expected arrival times. Click here to sign up for notifications.
Record-breaking heat across the Mesilla Valley has added to the challenge of a new school year. LCPS staff closely monitors temperatures throughout every district classroom, hallway, office and gymnasium to create the optimum environment for students.
“Our building-level administrators were given guidance on safety protocols during excessive heat, which could mean limiting recess time for students and keeping them hydrated by providing breaks to refill water bottles,” said Executive Director of Operations Sean Barham. “Schools are likely some of the safest spaces for students in these weather conditions because we have health services staff on hand, we have air-conditioned spaces, and we can keep students fed and hydrated.”
Water bottle fillers were installed in schools throughout the district in 2021 using federal covid-relief funds, and donated reusable water bottles were distributed to students. The community can still donate reusable water bottles to students by dropping them off at the Dr. Karen M. Trujillo Administration Complex or you can call 575-527-5811.
Despite bus delays and weather concerns, O’Brien says the start of the school year has been successful overall.
“I’ve visited campuses, I’ve talked with teachers, principals and families and kids are excited to be back,” said O’Brien. “As a district, we will continue to do what we can to limit distractions and make our spaces the most comfortable learning environment for everyone.”