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Many School Districts Face Shortage of Bus Drivers as School Year Begins

Public school districts are experiencing difficulties in hiring bus drivers as the new school year begins. In cities like Chicago, Louisville, and Tampa, where the school year starts in August, district officials have sent letters to parents asking them to drive their children to school or warning them that the first few weeks of class might be challenging due to a shortage of drivers. Districts in Colorado, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania are also reporting shortages of bus drivers, according to CBS News local reports. This shortage is a continuation of the national driver shortage that began shortly after the nation emerged from the coronavirus pandemic.

Kentucky’s largest district, Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, currently has less than 600 drivers, with hundreds of drivers being lost for various reasons. Mark Hebert, a district spokesman, stated that they had more than 900 drivers a few years ago before COVID but have been losing them ever since, similar to other large districts across the country.

Florida is also struggling to find drivers. In Broward and Miami-Dade counties, school districts are in need of about 100 drivers. The Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa currently has around 200 bus driver vacancies and is actively hiring. The district launched a marketing campaign over the summer to attract interest in bus driving. Meanwhile, the district’s current 634 drivers are working double runs to make up for the total 837 bus routes across the county.

In Albemarle County Public Schools in Charlottesville, Virginia, the driver shortage is partly due to an additional 3,000 students requesting bus transportation for this year. Despite raising driver salaries to approximately $21 an hour, the district is still short by about 12 drivers. Phil Giaramita, a district spokesman, mentioned that most drivers are opting for higher-paying jobs with better benefits, making it challenging to recruit new drivers.

Chicago Public Schools currently have about 681 bus drivers on staff but are still in need of another 1,300 drivers. Without the additional drivers, the district will have to limit bus services to students with diverse learning needs, students in temporary living situations, and general education students who attend the same school as a diverse learner or sibling.

Being a school bus driver is not a viable full-time option since most bus driving positions entail 25 to 35 hours a week. Finding qualified workers is also a challenge as all states require bus drivers to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate a bus.

Despite the challenges, school districts across the country are actively trying to address the shortage and find solutions to ensure that students can safely get to and from school.

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