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Colorado Springs School District 11 hires rideshare company to combat bus driver shortage

Posted at 9:01 AM, Oct 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-10 11:41:55-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — School has been back in session for a couple of months, but hiring bus drivers is still a problem in Colorado and locally.

District 11 in Colorado Springs is trying to combat the issue by hiring a third-party rideshare service to bring kids to and from school. The company is called HopSkipDrive and specializes in transporting children. Instead of driving a 70-passenger school bus, HopSkipDrive "CareDrivers" use their personal car to pick up children.

Devra Ashby, the communications officer for District 11, said they first hired the company in September after experiencing delayed bus routes. Some of the delays came from buses needing to pick up one or two kids farther from the majority of the route. She also said some
bus routes only pick up a couple of children along the way, creating inefficiency when buses are operating with empty seats. Ashby said the district is assigning HopSkipDrive rides to children in those cases to let the limited number of bus drivers focus on larger routes.

"This takes a lot of pressure off of our transportation drivers in District 11 so that they can provide those massive routes or a bit larger routes, rather than having to transport one student from the north to the south," Ashby said.

She said some of those children fall under the McKinney-Vento Act due to either low income or special needs. Under the law, school districts are required to provide transportation for those specific students to and from school.

Ashby said several families have been notified that their children were reassigned to a HopSkipDrive car, giving parents around two days' notice. She said if parents are not on board with their children being reassigned, they can be reimbursed 50 cents per mile that they have to travel to get their child to school.

"It's not a secret that there have been bus driver shortages across the country. We're talking about a 60-year-old transportation system and we have to start thinking differently when we're talking about transporting our students, keeping them safe on the way to school and on the way home," said Ashby.

Other school districts around the state have been using the service including Denver Public Schools, Boulder Valley School District, Jefferson County Public Schools, Aurora Public Schools, and Falcon District 49.

CareDrivers for HopSkipDrive have to pass a 15-point certification process, including being a caregiver for at least five years prior, passing several background checks, being at least 23 years old, having a good driving record, and owning a vehicle with four doors that is less than 10 years old.

Nationwide 88% of schools are dealing with bus driver shortages. Besides District 11, other local school districts including Academy District 20 and Falcon District 49 need bus drivers. They have offered more incentives for drivers, including sign-on bonuses ranging from $1,000 to $2,500.

The driver shortage has been a result of many people quitting or retiring during the pandemic. Others got jobs that require less in-person interaction or found jobs that pay better.
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