SHERIDAN, Ark. – Many shortages have come about since the COVID-19 pandemic, and one kind of shortage is impacting school districts nationwide.
A bus driver shortage is impacting the Sheridan School District.
Deputy Superintendent Lincoln Daniels says the bus driver shortage in their district started post-COVID-19. He also says almost daily there is a route that must be doubled impacting the time it takes to pick up students.
“We are having to run doubles just simply because there are not enough substitutes available to jump in at a moment’s notice,” Daniels said.
Daniels goes on to say they have seven positions for drivers open, however, that has still put a strain on their routes. He also says it’s been challenging to hire and attract drivers.
“It is a part-time job so if you need full-time money you really have to pair something up with that to get the maximum benefit,” Daniels said.
Daniels said they have routes in Saline and Grant County with around 1,800 thousand students they pick up as they cover 630 square miles.
Daniels said the bus drivers that they do have are working hard to make up for the gap.
“We just can’t say enough about our drivers that are willing to drive the double route to take up the slack, run their long route then come back,” Daniels also said they’re getting creative, “We have district administrators, building level administrators that have all jumped in the gap.”
Christina Hoffman is a parent of three kids who attends SSD. She feels the bus shortage issue has been worse this year as she says she has received constant messages of bus routes running late.
“The school buses are running 45-50 minutes late either in the morning or in the afternoons,” Hoffman said. “It’s extremely frustrating especially when you are getting 3 or 4 messages a week or when they send it out after the kids should already be on the bus.”
Hoffman said this problem is putting pressure on parents.
“Parents shouldn’t have to worry if they leave the house to go to work that day if their kids are going to be picked up on the bus or if they’re going to have to leave work early,” Hoffman said.
She does add that gratefully her job is flexible with her hours but knows other parents who are put in tough positions.
“I am one of the lucky parents that has the flexibility. There are parents who aren’t as lucky as me and they can’t go pick up their kids early,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman said she would like to see and know exactly what the district is doing to solve the issue.
“I would like to see and know what they’re doing and would like to see a change,” Hoffman said.
Daniels said he would like to assure parents who are frustrated that they’re trying to fix the issue.
“(The school district) really does care, hear their frustration and we really are trying to do our very best,” Daniels said.
Hoffman believes one of the only ways that the problem will be resolved is if bus drivers see a change in their salary.
“Higher pay is definitely what they need; they have to put up with our kids every day,” Hoffman said.
Daniels also said they do have more things possibly in the works to attract more drivers, he admits there’s a lot to get done however he does think they can “certainly” get through this shortage.