The Youngstown City School District is ending transportation for all high school students during the upcoming school year. The school board passed the motion at its Tuesday afternoon meeting.

Students will have to use alternatives like WRTA buses to get to and from school. The idea came about because of ongoing bus driver and crew shortages. YCSD pays it's bus drivers $24 an hour plus benefits, but it's not enough to transport to all 36 schools. 

"We have done the best we can and it's just not enough," said Board Member Joe Meranto during Tuesday's meeting.

Not enough drivers means the district is looking at alternative options to give kids a lift, like WRTA or transportation vans.

"We have to make some cuts and we can't have elementary students and middle school students catching the bus," said Board Member Brenda Kimble. "So we are starting at least with high school students."

21 News was the first to report the district failed to provide the required transportation, leading to a $2 million withholding penalty.

"Right now, they've held 1.9 million dollars back from us," explained Robert Kearns, Chief of Staff. "Taking high school out of the equation will allow us to take those drivers and deliver hopefully perfect service to those k-8 kids and no longer be fined in the future."

"It's a real burden on this district and I look to the state to help rather than fine us for things we have no control over," Meranto said.

Kimble believes this would affect up to 800 students and it's not clear if WRTA would have to change its routes.

"We've told them what our times are and what our schedules are," Kearns added. "The buses come pretty much to most of their major stops twice per hour."

The district is looking to put a proposal out in the next week for independent van/ bus companies to bid on district services. 

"We are looking at multiple ways to fix this problem," Kearns added. "We are looking into van services or some bus service from private companies that could help get some kids to school, predominately our special education students.

The district released a statement on the situation:

"Youngstown City School District is legally responsible for transporting all eligible students to the district, community, or chartered nonpublic schools where they are enrolled. This transport totals 36 schools, including 14 of our own buildings. With the ever-growing bus shortages and the recent $2 million withholding penalty because of the busing challenges, the district and board of education are exploring alternatives for transportation."

Kimble voiced concerns related to student absences.

"I have concerns," Kimble told 21 News. "We've been working on the absenteeism rate. I think it's going to go up with kids catching the city bus. There's bus stops for kids but how many students are really going to go and get on a WRTA to get to high school. I think we're going to have a problem with that benchmark."

"We have to be careful about what we create to take the place of one thing to assure that it's not going to cost us more than what we're already paying," Kimble said.

The Youngstown Education Association released a statement about the transportation policy:

"The YEA feels that any move to take away district busing from high school students is a mistake. Attendance is and has been an issue at the high school level for some time. Busing has also been a problem for some time  It is our understanding that the district intends to utilize the city buses as an alternative. We do not see how this will actually solve any of the problems and we are afraid that it could create more problems depending on the city bus routes, times, and the locations of stops."

The district could bring busing back for high schoolers if bus driver staffing improves in the future.