Bus routes change Nov. 7 to address driver shortage
Some bus routes at Perry County School District 32 will change on Nov. 7, a shift that is part of the district’s plan to address a driver shortage impacting schools across the nation.
“All of the families who will experience a change in their students’ bus number or the timing of pickup and drop-off will receive a phone call from a driver before Nov. 3,” said Sarah Orf, director of transportation. “You will be provided the new times for your bus stop
“Additionally, we have created two shorter routes requiring just one driver, who will run a double route every day. These changes are minor for most families, but the overall impact reduces the number of regular daily bus routes we are operating from 22 to 19. These changes free up two of our substitute drivers to fill in when a regular route driver is sick or needs a day off. The result will be fewer bus routes being canceled or delayed.”
Emergency Bus Routes will be shared by Nov. 10.
The district will also continue to operate four special services routes, and three utility routes to transport early childhood and parochial school students to and from district schools.
“We’ve been in a constant state of emergency regarding transportation services for the last year and a half,” said Melanie Hager, assistant director of transportation. “We’ve lost three drivers in the last 14 months, including James Kennedy who was killed in a Sept. 6 crash; this has been devastating to our department. We’ve also said farewell to several drivers who retired. At the same time, legislation has made it more difficult to obtain a CDL with the proper endorsements, so it takes longer to get new drivers in place. Unfortunately, some of our families have been greatly affected as our pool of drivers decreased. We are hopeful that these more efficient routes make life easier for the families we serve.”
Hager said that she and Orf are proud that District 32 is still able to offer bus service to families who live in town. “The state requires that we offer bus service to students who live more than 3.5 miles from campus,” she said. “We’ve always bussed students who live more than 1 mile from campus. Many area schools have had to bump out to the outer limit due to driver shortages, but we’ve been able to hold the course.”
The Board of Education is taking further steps to address the shortage, including a new salary schedule for bus drivers that provides a daily base pay, per-mile wages for the longest routes, and awarding steps on the salary schedule for every driver’s previous driving experience. At a special meeting on Oct. 26, Superintendent Andy Comstock presented a draft plan for discussion. The board tabled a vote on that plan and asked Mr. Comstock to make revisions for consideration at their Nov. 9 meeting.
“We hope this updated salary schedule helps attract drivers with previous CDL driving experience,” said Superintendent Andy Comstock. “We’ve had several people who would probably be driving for us if we had been able to place them at the 10- or 20-year mark for their accumulated years of driving experience.”
Orf thanked the district’s parents for their support and patience. “As a parent and grandparent myself, I understand how difficult it is to change school drop-off and pick-up plans on short notice,” she said. “Our parents stuck with us, and we are grateful.”
Orf and Hager are actively recruiting new drivers, and offer training for applicants. If you’re interested in driving a school bus for District 32, please contact Melanie Hager at email@example.com or 573-547-7500 Ext. 1263 for more information.