Between the start of a new school year and an enduring pandemic, Northwest ISD Superintendent Ryder Warren discussed new challenges the district is facing since the school year started last month—particularly when it comes to transportation.

In a Facebook Live update on Sept. 7, Warren asked parents to drive their kids to school and unenroll in the bus program, if possible, because the district is facing issues stemming from driver shortages, COVID-19 and increased social distancing. Warren said about 17,000 of the 27,531 kids enrolled in Northwest ISD schools this year have signed up for bus service.

“Guys, let me tell you something—we are having some major challenges in our transportation department,” Warren said. “Nothing of what the bus drivers, our routers, our mechanics—it’s nothing of what they're doing, it’s just the world that we're living in.”

He said the district is doing its best to get kids to school on time and home at a reasonable hour, but it is proving to be a major challenge—especially when it comes to bringing students back home.

“Right now, we've got kids getting home very, very late because we're having to double and triple routes because so many more kids need to ride the bus,” Warren said. “We've got buses that are too full right now. We're having to leave kids at school and then come back and get them. So we've got some of our babies staying out really late right now trying to get home.”

Warren said parents and caregivers who are part of the bus program will receive a letter from the district asking them to unenroll on the website if they can.

“If you can take up that challenge for us right now, to get us past where we're so far down in drivers right now, and the bus drivers are struggling to do that, we would truly appreciate that,” Warren said.

According to Warren’s presentation, there were 440 active COVID-19 cases on Sept. 1, 484 Sept. 2 and 504 Sept. 3 before slowly dropping to 477 Sept. 4, 461 Sept. 5 and 452 Sept. 6. Warren said that, out of the 31 schools in the district, six classrooms are closed because of COVID-19 cases.

Warren said the district will begin to consider elementary school closures when active cases are at or above 3%. Further, the district has extended visitor restrictions for all elementary and secondary schools not to allow visitors for the first nine weeks, rather than four weeks, and no large gatherings inside can take place during the school day.