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Bus driver shortages hurting schools

Posted at 6:51 PM, Sep 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-24 05:32:48-04

LANSING, Mich. — We're a month into the school year and districts around the state are still desperately looking for bus drivers.

Some like Portland is even having to cancel events because there's no way to get the kids around.

The district can't solve the driver shortage without adding new drivers and the pool of people willing to drive a school bus has decreased over the years.

"You still do a lot of teaching and guidance because you do build relationships with the kids," said Evie Griffith, a driver for Portland Public Schools for the last 20 years.

She said that this year's driver shortage is much worse than in previous years.

"If your bus breaks down and they need to bring you a bus, there's nobody here to do it."

That's because the department's operations director and a mechanic have been driving to make up for the critical shortage.

"I probably drove 15, 20 times last year, but I've driven every day since school started and the mechanic was driving at least 2, 3 times a week last year," said Gary Bond, the director of operations.

The district is three drivers short for all of their routes and six short for field and sports trips. This means routes may be changed, reduced or combined, affecting pick-up times.

Events can be also canceled last minute or parents will have to take their kids themselves.

"There's a lot of training that goes on with driving a bus," Bond said. Which is time-consuming and one reason the district says turns people away, plus other competitive jobs out there make it a challenge to attract new drivers.

Drivers like Griffith are hanging in there.

"You do have that loyalty kicking in so people are working extra when they don't want to keep programs afloat until we're fulling staffed," she said.

The district offers a $500 signing bonus for new route drivers and a $500 referral bonus for the person who referred the driver. Please contact the transportation department at 517-647-2993.

Dean Transportation handles busing for several local school districts and it is in serious need of drivers. It's holding a hiring event until 7 p.m. at its offices on Aurelius Road between Jolly and Cavanaugh in Lansing.

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