SOUTHERN COLORADO — Several school districts across Southern Colorado are experiencing a bus driver shortage and are on a mission to fill those positions so it does not impact our students.
District 20 is one of several districts hoping to fill some vacant bus driver spots.
And they’re not alone. District 2 needs to hire 15 bus drivers. District 38 is trying to find a way to cover about a quarter of its regular routes and relies heavily on retired professionals to fill in. District 3, District 11, and District 49 also tell me they are looking to hire more bus drivers this year.
In fact, just last month District 49 held a "bus test driving event" in an effort to fill 26 vacant positions. A lack of drivers in District 49 resulted in 20 cut routes and countless canceled field trips this past school year.
This is a nationwide problem due to low pay and an aging workforce according to a report by Transitcenter, a public transportation advocacy group.
But our local districts are offering better pay and incentives.
Places like District 38 are offering 1000-dollar sign on bonuses. If these districts cannot get the needed bus driver positions filled, it’s the student who will feel the impact. Fewer bus drivers means fewer bus routes, more drop off locations for parents versus the bus coming directly to that child’s home, and less school trips.
“Making sure that they’re able to take field trips, their athletic trips, all of that is very important for their academics, for their athletics that they participate in so having bus drivers for our kids to have those opportunities is important,” said Josy Campbell, the District 2 director of transportation.
Keep in mind, each district is impacted by the bus driver shortage differently. Some schools will still be able to have field trips, but they might have to consolidate routes. Other schools could be facing the opposite scenario.
“If we don’t have all the bus drivers that we need then we end up having to combine some of our routes which does impact our students and families and that is not our intent. Our hope is to get all the bus drivers we need to make sure we can run our regular route so we don’t see any disruptions,” said Alicia Welch, human resources director at Lewis Palmer School District 38.
District 20 is having a job fair to hire bus drivers next week on Wednesday August 2nd at their administration building. The district tells me they have more bus drivers than they did at this time last year, but they could still use more hands on deck.
All of these districts have told me, if there are any changes that impact students directly, they will reach out to parents before the school year begins.
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