Students are arriving to school late and getting home later than usual this year due to a national bus driver shortage.
At Riverside, buses are having to take two different loads because there aren’t enough buses to cover all the students with one. Students like freshman Amaya Clegg, who take the second load, have to wait for their driver to take the first load of students home first, then come back to school.
“Sometimes I don’t get home until after five,” said Clegg.
Bus drivers also run late in the morning picking up the second load of students as well.
“We get to school around 9:15,” said senior Keshaun Burns.
This leaving students not only tardy, but also absent for the first fifteen minutes of instruction in class.
“This year has been different because our buses come late every day and ain’t ever been on time,” said Burns.
For the bus drivers, the struggle is bigger than what time students arrive and leave.
“I think [leaders] need to get out and make it more attractive,” said an anonymous bus driver. She has worked with the district’s busing department for around eight years.
“The pay rate is the biggest problem,” said the driver.
COVID precautions have also led drivers to leave their jobs. The increase in calls to parents about their child’s school having another case is a primary example.
“Drivers are to wear masks and spray the buses and other things down,” said substitute bus driver Buddy Dean, who has worked for the district’s department of transportation in various roles during his career.
It’s difficult to replace a driver during COVID once they quit because of other job opportunities. Drivers have to take classes and log many hours of practice driving before they can get the commercial driver’s license needed to drive a school bus. Companies like Amazon and FedEx currently offer strong pay and less training. As frustrating as the shortage is for drivers and students alike, it will take time to resolve the issue.
“I feel like it should be fixed soon because it’s people that need to get on the bus to get on time,” said Burns.