It’s exhausting: Add burgling bus parts to the issues facing K-12 districts

Several districts have reported having their school buses' catalytic converters stolen overnight, forcing a pause to their bus routes.

It’s no surprise that districts have been struggling with bus staff shortages this school year. Nationwide, schools are actively working to recruit more bus drivers through various methods, like increasing their pay. Other districts, however, are facing a trickier problem.

Over the past couple of weeks, several schools have reported being targeted by thieves after discovering that their buses’ catalytic converters were stolen overnight.

In Oshkosh, Wisconsin, bus routes were disrupted for the second day in a row due to theft. Parents were told they had to find an alternative option to get their kids to and from school.

“While Kobussen had made every effort to resume regular bussing for the OASD today, they had no option due to additional overnight thefts,” according to a letter to parents. We understand this is a significant inconvenience and apologize for the disruption it causes you.”

Greg Cianciolo, patrol captain with the Winnebago County sheriff’s office, said they received a call around 6 a.m. Thursday regarding the second break-in at Kobussen Buses, impacting their Oshkosh fleet. According to reports, 27 converters were stolen Wednesday night. Eight were stolen overnight Tuesday and two buses were damaged.

“This is an unfortunate situation and the OASD appreciates all that Kobussen is doing to manage and problem solve,” according to a statement from the district. “Due to catalytic converter thefts impacting Kobussen’s entire Oshkosh terminal, there is no busing to or from school Thursday, September 29, for any Oshkosh Area School District students.”

Fortunately, the district is able to use buses from other schools that aren’t in session Friday. Kobussen is working on repairing the affected buses, but there has been no indication yet that they will be ready to go by next week.

Little Axe Public Schools in Cleveland County, Oklahoma faced a similar situation just days before the start of their school year in August. Four converters were stolen, according to Superintendent Jay Thomas. Two belonged to work cars and the other two belonged to buses for students with special needs.

“It was a low thing to do,” he said in an interview with KOCO News 5. “These kids depend on this bus—they have to. We don’t have another replacement for that bus. It has a wheelchair lift on it and it runs every single morning and every single evening.”

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On Monday, Sept. 19, in Burlington County, New Jersey, police were on the lookout for the suspects who stole nine converters from school buses over the weekend. The incident occurred near Moorestown High School. Fortunately, transportation for Moorestown Township Public Schools was not affected, according to Superintendent Michael Volpe.

“With the buses targeted, it looked like some of our most vulnerable students would have been most affected,” he said in a statement. “However, dedicated members of my team spent almost all weekend working, coordinating with the county, and assuring that these buses could get fixed.”

Catalytic converter theft has steadily increased, according to Cianciolo, especially among larger vehicles since they contain larger amounts of highly sought-after metals. Repairs can cost districts several thousands of dollars, depending on the number of converters stolen.

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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