Local group organizing community carpool to help RCSD with bussing crisis

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A group called “The Bus Stop” is trying to help the Rochester City School District get kids to school amid a district-wide bus driver shortage. They’re looking for volunteers to drive kids in their personal cars and vans, and a sign-up event was held on Wednesday.

According to organizers, all you need is to pass a background check and have a valid New York State driver’s license and insurance, and you can drive kids to school. Organizers say their drivers do not need to have any of the special certifications like first aid, CDL, or CDL-S with a passenger endorsement, which is required to drive a school bus in New York State. They say they are not equipped to transport children with disabilities.

Organizer Cherriese Bufis says she’s already gotten a lot of interest from the community.

"Since the update this morning that more drivers have quit… our emails, the phone line, everything has been ringing off the hook,” Bufis said. She and organizer Devon Bey signed up volunteers at Brothers and Sisters Unisex Salon on Dewey Avenue Wednesday.

On their recruitment poster, it says: “Due to the lack of accountability and transparency from the RCSD, many families are left without a safe way to transport their children to school,” followed by a link to their GoFundMe campaign.

If people cannot transport children but still want to help, the group is accepting cash donations. The carpool service is free for RCSD families, and drivers do not get paid, although organizers say they’ll provide gas cards to volunteers using donations they receive, and stipends if possible.

"If we’re able to connect drivers to vehicles to students, I have no doubt that we can fill the need,” Bufis said. “It’s not about a lack of people, it’s about a lack of organization. It’s a lack of respect."

News10NBC’s Emily Putnam asked organizers how the RCSD Board of Education has responded to their efforts.

"We did have the president of the school board Van White reach out to us. He stated our concerns and stated his support. Unfortunately, they’re not able to give us a public statement of support," Bufis said.

When Putnam asked Bufis if the BOE gave any reasons for not offering public support of their efforts, she declined to comment.

News10NBC reached out to Van White for comment but was unable to reach him.

With hundreds of paying bus driver jobs available (and more opening up every day), “The Bus Stop” organizers say people should volunteer to drive kids without pay because you don’t need a CDL and you can’t put a price on kids and their education.

"Most importantly it’s about our kids. It’s not about money. You can’t monetize everything,” said Devon Bey. "We have to, have to, have to, come together. Put the pride to the side, the ego to the side, and we can’t put a price on our kids. The school board is already doing that."

“The Bus Stop” is holding a meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at First Genesis Baptist Church on Hudson Avenue to sign up volunteers and give out information about their efforts.

Late sign-ups will be accepted. If you’re interested in learning more, you can contact organizers at TheBusStopRoc@gmail.com.