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Chicago Public Schools won’t provide busing to general education students for the rest of the school year, officials said Thursday.

In a letter to parents, the district said a driver shortage persists and is preventing it from providing busing to general education students — largely those in magnet and selective enrollment programs. The district will continue to provide free CTA cards, valued at $35, to those roughly 5,500 families.

“We fully understand how frustrating this news will be for many of our families, and sincerely empathize with the challenges and inconvenience that this situation has caused,” the letter said.

The update comes after the district announced in late September that it couldn’t provide busing to general education students this semester but would share an update with families before winter break regarding the second half of the school year.

Parents of children in selective enrollment and magnet programs have repeatedly shared frustrations with the Board of Education about the difficulties they’ve faced without busing to schools that are far from their homes, including difficulties balancing the school commute with their work schedules. Some parents have transferred their children to other schools.

Aria Haque, a sixth grader at Keller Regional Gifted Center in Mt. Greenwood, lives 20 miles from her school, and transferred to her neighborhood school after “so many hurdles and almost no time” to figure out the commute, Haque told the board at its meeting earlier this month. Her new school, however, was teaching material she said she’d learned two years ago.

Haque decided to re-enroll at Keller “even with the killer commute.” Her father now drives Aria and another Keller student whose family doesn’t have a car and lives 15 miles away from the school.

“That has been our routine ever since: An hour-and-a-half on the road for me, which isn’t bad, but over three hours for my dad, which is horrible,” Haque said.

Citing a driver shortage, the district announced in late July that it would limit busing to students with disabilities whose Individualized Education Programs, or IEPs, call for transportation, as well as students who are homeless. Both student groups are legally entitled to transportation.

The district left open the possibility that general education students could get busing later in the year.

Limited busing has also helped the district comply with a state corrective action plan to keep commutes under an hour each way for students with disabilities. Last school year, about 3,000 students with disabilities were on routes longer than an hour. As of October, the district was busing an average of seven students with disabilities per route, a Chalkbeat analysis found.

Commute times had improved this year as the district has limited busing, but have worsened in recent months: In August, 47 students with disabilities were on routes longer than an hour; that grew to 116 students by late November. The district has previously said it’s adding more students and routes to meet a rising need.

Reema Amin is a reporter covering Chicago Public Schools. Contact Reema at ramin@chalkbeat.org.

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