LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After a chaotic first day of school for Jefferson County Public Schools, all eyes are on the consulting company the district hired to streamline its busing system.
AlphaRoute is a company located in the Boston area that originated as an MIT-based startup, according to their Linkedin. The company was hired by JCPS in November to optimize its bell schedule and bus routes ahead of the new school year.
On AlphaRoute's website, the company said it uses "cutting-edge software and analytics to help transportation teams around the world."
JCPS paid the company at least $265,000 to do the work, according to an original data privacy contract and March amendment obtained by WHAS11.
Instead of improving JCPS busing, the new routes caused confusion and unprecedented delays for the district.
According to JCPS, the last students on Wednesday were dropped off just before 10 p.m., and the majority of those students were elementary-aged.
When asked for an interview, an AlphaRoute spokesperson declined, saying instead: "Our focus needs to be on supporting JCPS and helping to problem-solve."
The company later sent out a statement on Thursday addressing the issues:
"We know JCPS is working diligently to resolve the issues it experienced yesterday, and at this time it's not yet clear what the root causes were for those issues. But we recognize that the situation was extremely regrettable and likely caused by the significant changes to bus routing which were made necessary by the district's severe driver shortage. Combined with the new school assignment model, this is a substantial amount of change, but JCPS has a great team, and we know that their leadership and drivers are still working through it. We are fully confident that the new bell times and the new routes will work as planned, and we will do everything we can to support the district during this process."
WBNS, our sister station in Columbus, Ohio reported Columbus City Schools faced similar issues with AlphaRoute in 2022, and that district then decided to go with a different company, Versatrans. WHAS11's investigative FOCUS team has reached out to Columbus City Schools for more information but has yet to hear back.
AlphaRoute's website lists 15 school districts across the country, including JCPS, as "partners."
FOCUS reached out to several, including Cincinnati Public Schools, and that district stated that there is no current contract with AlphaRoute.
Cincinnati Public Schools sent a statement to WHAS11 News saying:
"CPS transports over 17,000+ students who attend CPS schools and local non-public, parochial and charter schools as required by law. CPS was under contract with AlphaRoute for less than one year, beginning in April 2022, and the cost was $150,000. AlphaRoute provided route analysis and made efficiency recommendations. CPS was not satisfied with the results and had to reroute and physically evaluate each stop."
A JCPS spokesperson said it's in the process of reviewing all bus stops and routes to "ensure efficiency," and will make the necessary changes.
"[The district] needed to make a drastic change after so many students missed hours of instruction each day because of late buses due to the bus driver shortage. In order to work through our large, complicated transportation system, we enlisted the help of AlphaRoute," spokesperson Carolyn Callahan said.
Callahan said any changes will be made in the Bus Finder app and will be communicated to families as soon as possible.