Shawnee Mission bus route registration now open — Here’s how it works

DS Bus Lines Driver

Shawnee Mission works with transportation provider DS Bus Lines annually to create routes district wide — here's how. Photo courtesy DS Bus Lines. File photo.

Once again, the Shawnee Mission School District is finalizing bus routes for the upcoming school year, and families must decide whether they want to use the service or not.

Register now: The district has opened up bus enrollment for the 2022-23 academic year, and families can register their children has bus riders here.

  • Routes will be constructed around who registers by July 22, according to a district email to families.
  • Families who register their child after July 22 are not guaranteed to be put on a bus route by the first day of school in mid-August.
  • Final bus assignments should be made available starting August 3.

Two-and-a-half mile rule: A key consideration for families enrolling their child for a bus route is whether they live within two-and-a-half miles of their child’s assigned school.

  • If a students lives two-and-a-half miles or further away, then they automatically get placed on a bus route for free, as state aid is provided to districts to pay for those students, but they must still register for bus service with the district.
  • But if a student lives within that two-and-a-half mile radius, families are typically asked to pay an annual fee if their student wants to use the bus, otherwise they can get to school on their own.
  • Now is

Key quote: “We also encourage families to let their building principal know of interest,” Smith said. “When we hear of the growing interest, we have worked in prior years to offer surveys to the school community to help identify enough families interested in starting a bus route for the attendance area.”

The process: Each summer, the district works with its transportation provider, Shawnee-based DS Bus Lines, to create routes for the upcoming school year based on interest from families and students, Chief Communications Officer David Smith said.

  • The so-called “free” routes for kids outside the two-and-a-half mile radius are automatically created by DS, according to DS division general manage B.J. Garcia.
  • Garcia said the routes are pretty firmly set year to year, but the company may add bus routes to accommodate more students or readjust routes to cut down costs for the district.

What it takes for a new route to be created: Though most routes are generally the same from year to year, some new routes can be created and others may be eliminated.

  • Garcia with DS Bus Lines said usually at least 50 students need to be enrolled riders in order for a route to be created within the two-and-a-half mile radius.
  • Historically, Garcia said, 50 riders has been the minimum to account for cost of fuel, bus maintenance and the driver’s salary.
  • Otherwise, families who live near an existing “free” route but outside the two-and-a-half mile zone can pay for their child to ride the bus, Garcia said.

Three routes cut last year: There were three elementary bus routes that existed prior to the 2021-22 school year that were not created due to a lack of riders, Smith with SMSD said.

  • Those routes were likely full of paid riders, but in each case, fewer than 10 riders were enrolled by the start of school, Smith said.
  • A bus route could be eliminated during the school year if its more efficient and cost-effective for the district, Garcia said. This would only happen if all students from that route could be reassigned to a different route — students who use the bus would not be left without transportation during the school year, he said.

What it costs: Shawnee Mission spent more than $14.2 million on transportation during the 2021-22 school year, according to a recet district presentation to the school board.

  • A majority of that funding went toward regular busing and special education transportation.
  • Families who live on established routes less than the two-and-a-half miles from their school can pay up to $370 per student for the school year for bus transportation, according to Shawnee Mission’s website.
  • Garcia confirmed paid families who sign up are not guaranteed transportation. It depends on the minimum number of riders and whether or not there is an existing bus route that can easily pick up a paid rider, he said.
  • If a family pays for transportation in the summer and there are no routes to pick them up when the routes are released in early August, Garcia said, the family is refunded their money

One parent’s concerns: Jennifer Falk, a Shawnee Mission mother, said she noticed her daughter excelled in fifth grade at Prairie Elementary as a bus rider — it provided a sense of regularity and responsibility to get to the bus on time, she said.

  • The bus route Falk’s daughter rode wasn’t created for the 2021-22 school year, her daughter’s sixth grade year, because of a lack of riders.
  • Falk said lower income families struggle more when there aren’t bus routes available for their children, especially in the winter when driving can be harder on cars.
  • Even though her youngest child will be in middle school this upcoming school year, Falk said, she’s still concerned about Prairie and other Shawnee Mission families who don’t live near an existing bus route and need one.

Key quote: “If you have kids in three different schools, not everyone gets into that situation but when you do it’s really hard on your car because it’s not highway miles,” Falk said.