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Feedback Requested on Proposed Transportation Recommendations

The School Board voted on May 28 to approve transportation and schedule changes. Please visit the Transportation Department's webpage for more information. 

Update May 14, 2024: Based on the feedback received from the community, recommendations to improve transportation have been modified since the original presentation made during the April 23 School Board Special Meeting/Workshop.

Alternative Transportation Recommendations for Noel C. Taylor Learning Academy, STEAM, and PLATO Programs

To accommodate transportation for programs that are available for students who reside in attendance zones across the city, RCPS would establish “alternative service routes.” These routes would create centralized hub bus stops in a student’s neighborhood for greater transportation efficiency. Bus stops would be aligned with the current family responsibility zones, or walking zones, and would not require students to travel more than one mile to reach the bus stop. Per the Code of Virginia and the RCPS Parent Handbook, students eligible for transportation may be required to walk up to one mile to reach their regular bus stop. Programs utilizing “alternative service routes” include Noel C. Taylor Learning Academy, STEAM at Fishburn Park Elementary School, and PLATO Programs.

These updated recommendations would replace the previous recommendations of Noel C. Taylor students using Valley Metro, discontinuing transportation for Fishburn Park STEAM program students who live outside of the school zone, and creating hub stops at home schools for the PLATO program.

Original Story: April 24, 2024

The School Board will vote on Tuesday, May 28 on proposed transportation recommendations for the 2024-2025 school year. Roanoke City Public Schools (RCPS) leaders presented the division’s recommendations and recent transportation survey results during the School Board’s special meeting/workshop on Tuesday, April 23. The full presentation can be downloaded on BoardDocs, and the meeting can be viewed on Facebook, beginning at the 1 hour, 3 minute mark.

Approximately 850 to 1,000 students have been late on a daily basis over the past two years. Chief Operations Officer Chris Perkins detailed during the meeting that the current transportation offerings within RCPS exceed the capacity of the system, and changes must be made in order for any provider to successfully transport students safely to and from school on time.

RCPS is contracting with a new transportation provider, Zum, beginning in the 2024-2025 school year. Zum has already held two hiring events and ultimately will work with RCPS to make routes more efficient.

The following changes have been proposed for the School Board’s consideration:

    • Adjust the start and end times for most schools beginning for the 2024-2025 school year
    • Realign schools geographically
    • Modify transportation offerings for:
      • Afterschool care
      • PLATO (gifted program)
      • Fishburn Park Elementary School STEAM program
      • Noel C. Taylor Learning Academy
    • Enforce existing walking zones

These recommended changes were created based on results from a recent transportation survey and the work of the division’s Transportation Work Group, which is comprised of parents/guardians, transportation staff, principals, and staff from a variety of academic areas.

The work group has met for the past two years to evaluate RCPS’ current transportation and program offerings and review various recommendations. Perkins noted that the Transportation Work Group did not have unanimous agreement regarding the presented recommendations.

Schedule Change

The current bell times have proved to be too close, causing a ripple effect of delays. As a result, Mr. Perkins said moving bell times so they are 45 minutes apart will provide an additional cushion.

The new proposed bell times are as follows:

Tier 1 (Elementary): 7:15 a.m. to 2 p.m. (15 minutes earlier than current Tier 1)
Tier 2 (Elementary): 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. (Unchanged from current Tier 2)
Tier 3: (High schools and Forest Park Academy): 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (15 minutes later than current Tier 3)
Tier 4: (Middle schools and Noel C. Taylor): 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. (30 minutes later than current Tier 4)

*The time changes listed are in reference to the tiers themselves as compared to the current 2023-2024 school year. Under the geographic realignment proposal below, some schools could experience a 45-minute change by moving tiers, if approved.

Geographic Realignment

Some schools would change tiers under the proposal to provide geographic realignment that makes it easier for buses to reach their next route on time.

The proposed tier schedule is:

Tier 1 Schools: Fairview, Fallon Park, Highland Park, Hurt Park, Garden City, Preston Park, RAMS, Westside
Tier 2 Schools: Crystal Spring, Fishburn Park, Grandin Court, Lincoln Terrace, Monterey, Morningside, Round Hill, Wasena, and Virginia Heights
Tier 3 Schools: High Schools and Forest Park Academy
Tier 4 Schools: Middle Schools and Noel C. Taylor Learning Academy

Afterschool/Daycare Transportation

RCPS currently provides transportation to some students who are enrolled in daycare or afterschool programs outside of their school’s attendance zone. It is recommended that RCPS discontinue transportation for students who attend a commercial afterschool/daycare business that is out of the student’s school zone. Transportation would still be provided for students who attend a location that is within their school zone.

RCPS would continue to provide transportation, no matter a student’s home school, to non-profit community organizations that are partners with RCPS. These include the Boys & Girls Club, Presbyterian Community Center, and the West End Center. RCPS would enter into official memorandums of understanding (MOUs) where appropriate or applicable and would reserve the right to evaluate transportation services in the future.

Transportation for PLATO (*This recommendation has been updated; please see the top of this story for the updated recommendation. The original recommendation is below.)

RCPS proposes to continue to offer gifted services through the Pupils Learning Appropriately TOgether (PLATO) program centers at Fairview and Highland Park Elementary Schools, with modified transportation services.

Because students from across the division attend these specialty programs, routes can be lengthy and can serve a small number of students. This contributes to the complex routes.

Under the proposal, a group stop would be established at each student’s home school. Families would be responsible for the student being transported to their home school, and a bus would then take students from their home school to either Fairview or Highland Park. Accommodations would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to ensure a lack of transportation does not prevent students from participating in PLATO.

Transportation for STEAM (*This recommendation has been updated; please see the top of this story for the updated recommendation. The original recommendation is below.)

Fishburn Park Elementary School is RCPS’ only application-based elementary school, with a focus on science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math (STEAM). Currently, students who are zoned to attend Fishburn Park attend automatically, and students from elsewhere in the division can apply annually to attend.

Under the proposal, transportation would be discontinued for students who are not zoned to attend Fishburn Park. Families would be responsible for transporting students who apply to attend.

Transportation for Noel C. Taylor (*This recommendation has been updated; please see the top of this story for the updated recommendation. The original recommendation is below.)

Noel C. Taylor Learning Academy is RCPS’ alternative program and provides an integrated transitional program to meet middle and high school students’ academic and social needs. Currently, the program serves approximately 140 students and includes midday shuttle services in addition to standard arrival/dismissal transportation. It is important to note that enrollment at Noel C. Taylor fluctuates throughout the year, often lowest in the fall and highest in the spring.

No changes are proposed for middle school students. Two options are proposed for the approximately 100 high school students:

  • Students would need to utilize Valley Metro Services, which would provide free, unlimited rides to and from the program, job locations, and/or community services.


  • Parents/guardians would be responsible for transportation, with accommodations evaluated on a case-by-case basis to ensure students have what they need to succeed.

Enforce Walking Zones

RCPS has existing walking zones that are not currently enforced. The Parent Handbook states: “Students eligible for transportation may be required to walk up to one mile to reach their regular bus stop. Except for kindergarten/preschool students, a student living within a school’s established walking boundary will walk to school.”

Under the proposal, existing walking zones would be enforced, except for extenuating circumstances:

  • Preschool/Kindergarten: Adult required at bus stop
  • Students with disabilities: Based on IEP
  • Elementary: .25 miles
  • Secondary: .6 miles

Transportation Survey

The recommendations presented were informed by the transportation survey that ran for two weeks in February. More than 3,600 parents/guardians, staff, and students responded to the survey, representing all schools and programs.

Respondents were asked to provide their level of support for four potential adjustments, as well as rank the recommendations based on their most to least preferred.

The potential adjustments were ranked as follows:

  1. Adjusting school schedules (58.4% strongly agreed or agreed this would be reasonable)
  2. Only providing transportation to daycare center/afterschool programs within a school’s attendance zone (57.9% strongly agreed or agreed this would be reasonable)
  3. Expanding and enforcing walking zones (53.2% strongly agreed or agreed this would be reasonable)
  4. Middle and high school students riding same bus (Only 35% strongly agreed or agreed this would be reasonable. This was not brought forth as a recommendation)

Moving Forward

School Board members ultimately decided to move the vote on the proposed recommendations from May 14 to May 28 to provide ample time to receive public feedback and review the recommendations.

Members focused comments on several of the recommendations, such as:

  • Additional data related to the impact of earlier start times on tardies and chronic absenteeism;
  • Potential impact on Noel C. Taylor high school students riding public transportation;
  • Ensuring families and staff can review the specific recommendations and have an outlet for additional feedback.

Mr. Perkins emphasized that there will never be a perfect solution but that the goal is to create a plan that enables students to safely get to and from school on time. He also stated that the recommendations were each presented individually, if the Board wished to approve only certain recommendations.

Students, families, staff and community members who would like to provide feedback to the School Board should email