What will it take for schools to have a full fleet of bus drivers again?

In some districts, the bus driver shortage is "worse than ever," but why? From retirements to a lack of funding, administrators are in over their heads looking for a solution to the crisis.

Every school district experienced its own share of challenges during the pandemic. Some fared worse than others, but to say that every district is still experiencing some sort of pandemic-related impact would be an understatement. For many administrators, one key area essential to the daily operations of a school district continues to top their list of challenges: finding and maintaining a full school bus fleet.

Chatham County School District, GA

As of July 12, the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System had only 154 official bus drivers, compared to last year’s tally of 222. Even worse, in 2019, the district had 328 drivers, GPB reports. Unfortunately, leaders don’t see an easy fix to the issue.

“We want to acknowledge that we know we have some challenges,” said newly hired SCCPSS Superintendent Denise Watts. “I have not been here long enough to truly unpack that… I’m not prepared to speak today to what those challenges or impacts are.”

Education Director at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute Stephen Owens told GPB that the issue stems from the state’s outdated budget policies. Schools rely on supplemental help to operate transportation budgets, but the system was set in 2000. Without proper adjustments to funding to meet current transportation costs, schools in the district inevitably run into problems.

Ector County ISD, TX

Administrators across Ector County ISD are working on finding new and innovative ways to incentivize drivers to join their fleets. Like school districts across the country, Ector County is also experiencing its fair share of shortages. As a result, they’re promising drivers a competitive salary, benefits and other appreciative efforts, CBS7 reports.

“We are very proud that we implemented a pay increase for all of our employees across the board,” Associate Superintendent Anthony J. Sorola told CBS7. “A 3 percent raise classification.”

“Our starting salary is very competitive,” he added. “We also have flexible scheduling for our bus drivers. A lot of times they choose to work part-time as a bus driver because they require that. We offer that benefit, as well as medical benefits.”

Shenendehowa Central School District, NY

“We take that time to, kind of, take a breath and start to prepare for fall,” Assistant Director of Transportation Belinda Govich told News10 regarding the district’s summer plans. “Unfortunately, because we are short drivers, we have not had that breath.”

Many of the district’s former bus drivers reached retirement age since the pandemic, and now there aren’t enough applicants to fill in the gaps.

“We lost about 19 drivers this year, and we only have about 10 in training so far, so we are already going into the fall short again,” said Govich.

They’ve also been unable to provide students with transportation to various summer camps and field trips as they could in the past because summer school alone is occupying all their drivers.

“A lot of my colleagues who are directors and transportation supervisors are out on the road driving every day,” Govich explained. “Basically, anyone with a CDL is out on the roads.”

Govich’s message to parents this year, according to News10, is “Be patient. We most likely will be facing some delays as we did last year, as we have very similar challenges to those we did last year.”

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Micah Ward
Micah Wardhttps://districtadministration.com
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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